Six religious sisters of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent and an Ursuline nun who were arrested by Ethiopian security forces in November last year have been freed on 15 January after over 40 days of detention.

The nuns had been abducted on 30 November, in the context of the 14-month war over the Tigray region. The two Deacons arrested with them and two other nuns from Kobo are still detained along with thousands of ethnic Tigrayans, and even Eritrean refugees, suspected of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

In the crackdown against suspected rebels, a number of Catholic religious and lay people have also been arrested. On 5 November, a Salesian education center in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa was raided by military forces, and 17 religious and lay people were taken away in a van. They were released on 13 November after been interrogated.

War erupted in Ethiopia on 4 November 2020, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the separatist Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) following an attack against federal military bases.

Ahmed promised a swift victory, but the fighting has escalated into a widespread conflict involving ethnic-based militias as well as Eritrean armed forces, with reports of serious human rights violations on both sides.

The conflict eased slightly during the Christmas period, after TPLF declared a unilateral ceasefire and its withdrawal from the Amhara and Afar regions in what the group called a gesture of willingness to start negotiations.

The situation, however, still remains tense, while the humanitarian crisis in Tigray continues to grow, with seven million people with no food, healthcare, medicines and electricity. Over 2 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict and famine has been officially declared in the region.