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Two Catholic Relief Services’ workers slain in Ethiopia amid Easter Sunday unrest

Members of the Amhara Special Force are pictured in a file photo near the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Two Catholic Relief Service staff members, Chuol Tongyik, a security manager, and Amare Kindeya, a driver, were shot and killed in a CRS vehicle April 9, 2023, in the Amhara region as they were returning to Addis Ababa from an assignment. (OSV News photo/Tiksa Negeri, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Two Catholic Relief Services staff members were shot and killed Easter Sunday in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, according to the U.S. Catholic Church’s international aid agency. Details of the murders are still unknown, CRS said April 10, but the incident comes amid several days of unrest and protests in the region after Ethiopia’s federal government moved to dissolve paramilitary forces.

Ethiopia’s government recently announced that it plans to integrate regional special forces into the federal army or police force in what it described as a bid for national unity. But that decision was met with strong opposition in Amhara, with large protests taking place across the region, according to multiple reports.

CRS said in its April 10 statement the agency was “devastated” to announce the loss of two staff members in Ethiopia: Chuol Tongyik, a security manager, and Amare Kindeya, a driver. The statement said both aid workers were shot and killed in a CRS vehicle in the Amhara region “as they were returning to Addis Ababa from an assignment.”

“The depth of our shock and sorrow is difficult to measure and we are saddened over this senseless violence,” Zemede Zewdie, CRS country representative in Ethiopia, said in a statement. “CRS is a humanitarian agency dedicated to serving the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia. We express our deepest condolences to Chuol’s and Amare’s families and hope they find strength in this tragic time. CRS reiterates our commitment to continue working in support of the people in Ethiopia.”

Tongyik, 37, started working for CRS as a security manager in 2021, while Kindeya, 43, had been a driver for CRS since 2019, the group said.

“These colleagues were an integral part of the CRS team and the larger community of humanitarian workers. We honor their sacrifice and deeply mourn their deaths,” Zemede said.

Kim Pozniak, senior director of global communications for Catholic Relief Services told OSV News in an email that much of the charity’s work in Ethiopia centers around food security, comprising both short-term emergency assistance and long-term development work.

“We also do a lot of peacebuilding work and both staff supported this work in their respective positions,” Pozniak said.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the United States. With the support of the U.S. Catholic community, CRS says it provides services in more than 100 countries, “without regard to race, religion or nationality.”

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on Twitter @kgscanlon.

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