By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa were anticipating the return Thursday, October 29, of two evangelists who were imprisoned for three months on what believers said were "false charges" of "offering money for conversion" and "insulting" the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).
Last Friday, October 23, a local court in Debiretabor acquitted Temesgen Alemayehu and Tigist Welde Amanuel on the “insulting” charge, which was made by fellow inmates, opening the doors to freedom, Christians said.
Last month they already won an appeal at a Supreme Court against their imprisonment for allegedly paying people to convert to Christianity. That penalty was reduced to a 500 birr ($40) fine, Christians explained.
"Thank you to those who prayed for us," Alemayehu said in a statement distributed by Christian news agency Compass Direct News. "The enemy has tried to frustrate us and delay our freedom, but through prayers and God’s intervention, we are now released from prison. We thank those who prayed on our behalf," Amanuel added.
Both men of Wengel Lealem church in Addis Ababa, had gone to Debiretabor in Ethiopia's Amhara state in July to help establish a church.
However observers say the local population if is predominantly EOC and hostile towards evangelicals. The two Christians’ arrests reportedly stemmed from a July 19 incident in which passersby began to question them as they were preaching on a roadside.
Christians said a heated argument led to a group attack on the two evangelists , wounding Alemayehu. Amanuel reportedly sustained minor injuries. Church leaders in Debiretabor also said Alemayehu was suffering from kidney infections and had sought permission to get treatment, but that prison officials refused. Officials could not be reached for comment.
A group within the EOC known as 'Mahibere Kidusan' or 'Fellowship of Saints' had allegedly incited its activist to attack the two men. Mahibere Kidusan has not issued an official statement, however Christian say the group opposes reform movements within the EOC and views evangelical Christianity as as threat.
The two evangelists were expected to return to Addis Ababa shortly, Christians said.