Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country and its second-largest in terms of population.

Ethiopia is also SON Network’s newest partner country in ministry. Apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini’s Italy, from 1936-1941, Ethiopia is the only African nation to have never been colonized. It has a unique cultural heritage, being the home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – one of the oldest Christian denominations – and a monarchy that ended only in the coup of 1974. Few westerners realize that Ethiopia was a communist nation, supported and protected by the Soviet Union from 1974-1991.
After a period of civil unrest that began in February 1974, a military junta, known as the Derg (“committee”), seized power in Ethiopia. The Derg was formally renamed the Provisional Military Administrative Council and on September 12, 1974, overthrew the government of the Ethiopian Empire and Emperor Haile Selassie during mass protests. The Derg abolished the monarchy and embraced communism as an ideology, establishing Ethiopia as a Marxist-Leninist one-party state with itself as the vanguard party in a provisional government.

Soviet backing for the Derg increased, especially once Major Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as its most powerful member. In 1975, the first group of officers from the regime traveled to the Soviet Union in Moscow for ideological training, including Lt. Colonel Fire-Selassie Wogderess, who would later become Mengistu’s second in command. Soviet media ran positive portrayals of the Derg and of Mengistu in particular.

By the end of the 1980s, however, the Soviet Union had ramped down its support for Ethiopia. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, profound famine, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held in 1995.

Though the Soviet-backed communist rule in Ethiopia lasted less than one generation, its effects continue to wreak havoc, today. After devastating losses of over 1.4 million people, massive deforestation, and economic collapse, the people of Ethiopia are in desperate need of genuine healing and wholeness that only comes in knowing and reclaiming their identity in Christ.

Some Interesting Facts About Ethiopia:
The 5th-century Greek historian Herodotus describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings, while the Bible’s Old Testament records the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem where “she came to test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10). Matters clearly went further than that because legend asserts that King Menelik – the founder of the Ethiopian Empire – was the son of the Queen and Solomon.

Remains of the Queen of Sheba’s palace can still be seen today in Axum, in the province of Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Axum is also home to many other extensive historical sites, including what is traditionally held to be the home of the Ark of the Covenant, brought there from Jerusalem by Menelik.

Another interesting fact is that Ethiopia marks the passing of time almost 8 years behind the Western world. This is, in part, because Ethiopia is the only country in the world to have 13 months in a year. Ethiopians also celebrate the New Year in September, meaning they were already four months into celebrating the new year 2012 at the same time we were ushering in the year 2020.

Call to Action

Country Snapshot

Area: (slightly less than twice the size of Texas), total: 1,104,300 sq km (426,373 sq miles), land: 1,096,570 sq km (423,388 sq miles), water: 7,730 sq km (2,985 sq miles)

Population: 108,113,150 (July 2020 est.)

Population growth rate:2.56% (2020 est.)

Capital City: Addis Ababa

Independence Day: Ethiopia has never been colonized and remains the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world – at least 2,000 years (may be traced to the Aksumite Kingdom, which coalesced in the first century B.C.). However, the Soviet-backed DERG communist regime that ruled Ethiopia, beginning in 1974, was toppled on 28 May 1991.

Ethnic Groups: Oromo 34.4%, Amhara (Amara) 27%, Somali (Somalie) 6.2%, Tigray (Tigrinya) 6.1%, Sidama 4%, Gurage 2.5%, Welaita 2.3%, Hadiya 1.7%, Afar (Affar) 1.7%, Gamo 1.5%, Gedeo 1.3%, Silte 1.3%, Kefficho 1.2%, other 8.8% (2007 est.)

Languages: Oromo (official working language in the State of Oromiya) 33.8%, Amharic (official national language) 29.3%, Somali (official working language of the State of Sumale) 6.2%, Tigrigna (Tigrinya) (official working language of the State of Tigray) 5.9%, Sidamo 4%, Wolaytta 2.2%, Gurage 2%, Afar (official working language of the State of Afar) 1.7%, Hadiyya 1.7%, Gamo 1.5%, Gedeo 1.3%, Opuuo 1.2%, Kafa 1.1%, other 8.1%, English (major foreign language taught in schools), Arabic (2007 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: total population: 67.5 years, male: 65.5 years, female: 69.7 years (2020 est.)

Religious Groups: Ethiopian Orthodox 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.5%, traditional 2.7%, Catholic 0.7%, other 0.6% (2007 est.)

SON’s Work in Ethiopia

Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church

SON Network is actively leading educational and evangelistic ministries with the Ethiopian Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church ministry leaders and congregations, through Bible camps, conferences, and the life-to-life discipleship model, in cooperation with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).

Through the Back Door and Air Vents

As geopolitical events continue to influence and affect the possibility global work in countries like China, the Lord presents new opportunities and unique ways to continue reaching the Stay Behind and Spiritually Orphaned people of China, by reaching them in Ethiopia!

There is a vast Chinese Diaspora (estimated at 500,000) living and working in Ethiopia, alone. SON Network is developing a global outreach to the Chinese diaspora residing in Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia, other European countries, plus the United States. This is already beginning with Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, as SON just penned a formal partnership agreement with Mekane Yesus to establish the first Chinese Lutheran Congregation in Ethiopia. Also, training 300+ Ethiopian missionaries (through Leadstar University in Ethiopia) to serve in China, as the cooperative relationship between China and Ethiopia has opened the doors for Ethiopian students to study in China. This opportunity provides for Ethiopian Christian trained as missionaries to be uniquely placed in mainland China as university students.

Sport Bible Camps

Beginning in summer 2020 SON Network will to take a small hand-picked team to Ethiopia to host Sport Camps that are centered on the Bible. These camps will serve as outreach opportunities for Mekane Yesus Lutheran congregations and as opportunities to serve and engage Chinese Diaspora living in Ethiopia. We pray that the seeds that are planted will encourage and bless Stay Behind children and fan the embers of faith for both, Ethiopians and Chinese, alike!