WHY ETHIOPIA? Though the Soviet-backed communist rule in Ethiopia lasted less than one generation, its effects continue to wreak havoc, today, in Africa’s oldest independent country that is second-largest in terms of population.

As a rare exception among African countries, multi-ethnic and mostly Orthodox Christian Ethiopia was never conquered or colonized by European powers, except for the Italian occupation during 1936-41. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie attempted to continue reforms after WWII but famine and economic difficulties prepared the ground for the 1974 coup by which a Marxist-Leninist junta known as the Derg toppled the Emperor and established a socialist regime.

The Derg’s anti-opposition Red Terror in 1975 sparked the Ethiopian Civil War that lasted sporadically until 1991. Ethiopian revolutionary leader Mengistu Haile Mariam launched repressions that claimed as many as half a million Ethiopian lives during 1977-78. In late 1970s, the junta introduced Soviet-backed political terror together with nationalization and collectivization, leading the country into economic crisis and contributing to the 1980s famine that caused up to 1 million hunger deaths. Hundreds of thousands fled from poverty, communist experiments, forced mobilization, population transfers, and repressions.

In May of 1991, the communist government of Ethiopia was overthrown by its own officials and a coalition of rebel forces. Due to its strong Christian history and relatively short time under a communist regime, Christianity re-gained its footing quickly.

Today, Ethiopia has the largest and fastest growing Lutheran Church body in the world. This is good news for the Church, but sadly education, especially amongst the poorest populations, make Ethiopia one of the least literate countries in the world (51.8% average literacy rate). This is why our focus is on high quality/low-cost K-12 Christian education. 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.

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.

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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: 110,871,031 (July 2021 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.5% (2021 est.)

Literacy rate: total population: 51.8%, male: 57.2%, female: 44.4%

Capital City: Addis Ababa (altitude: 2,355 m / 7,726 ft)

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 34.9%, Amhara (Amara) 27.9%, Tigray (Tigrinya) 7.3%, Sidama 4.1%, Welaita 3%, Gurage 2.8%, Somali (Somalie) 2.7%, Hadiya 2.2%, Afar (Affar) 0.6%, other 12.6% (2016 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: 67.9 years, male: 65.79 years, female: 70.06 years (2021 est.)

Religious Groups: Ethiopian Orthodox 43.8%, Muslim 31.3%, Protestant 22.8%, Catholic 0.7%, traditional 0.6%, other 0.8% (2016 est.)

SON’s Work in Ethiopia

Language Camps and Education

SON Partners:  Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba to implement high quality/low-cost Christian schools that will prepare Ethiopian youth to be future business and economic leaders.

Where we work:  Addis Ababa

What we do:  In process of establishing additional K-12 Christian based, boarding schools in Ethiopia.

SON Missionary to Dubai, UAE - Pr. Martha Shanka

Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Pastor Martha Shanka has been equipped with the gifts of teaching, preaching, and leading worship. From 2010 to 2017, Pastor Martha worked with the Ethiopian diaspora in Egypt, where it is forbidden to legally preach the Gospel. In 2018, Pastor Martha received a call to work with the Ethiopian diaspora living in Dubai and the greater United Arab Emirates where she trains her fellow countrymen to be Christian witnesses to the Muslims for whom they work (a high percentage of the domestic workers and support staff in Dubai are Ethiopian). She is also an administrator and teacher for Leadstar Theological College, training more than 80 students from 18 different countries.

You can support Pastor Martha directly through the SON Give page: