By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
HARARE (Worthy News)-- Heaven's Light Church in Harare, Ethiopia, was demolished Nov. 28 by order of the Shenkore administrative district that just days before had forcibly removed the church's sign, according to International Christian Concern.
After the demolition, Heaven's Light Pastor Zemach Tadesse, his wife Aster and Pastor Yosefe Hailemariam were all detained for hours after attempting to photograph their damaged church.
As all the land in Ethiopia is publicly owned, churches are unable to legally purchase property and build permanent places of worship. Instead, congregations must lease land until they are forced to either renegotiate the lease, or vacate the premises and undo any changes they made to the proeprty.
Heaven's Light Church had operated unnoticed for five years, but after complaints by a local Muslim, officials removed the church's exterior sign and warned its congregation that they would be back to destroy the church if the worship of Christ continued. Instead, the congregation continued to worship until the authorities returned and tore down the church's roof, removed its siding and then confiscated the property.
Pastor Tadesse told ICC that his congregation is now meeting in small groups in members' homes after local officials warned him not to worship at what's left of his church's building.
Cameron Thomas, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, said: "Every member of the Heaven's Light Church holds the right -- as a human being under international law and as a citizen of Ethiopia -- to freely practice their Christianity. Instead, corrupt officials willing to defend their religion rather than the laws they've sworn to uphold are violating Christians' rights by forcibly closing, destroying and demolishing churches across Ethiopia ..."