ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia
Students at Ethiopia’s top religious college are protesting the close ties between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the government, alleged restrictions on their speech and Beyonce’s recent meeting with their patriarch.
The 26-year-old singer met with the Ethiopian patriarch, Abune Paulos, before performing in skimpy sequined outfits as part of celebrations of the country’s millennium, which fell in September, according to the church’s calendar.
Daniel Techale, a 28-year-old Theological College of the Holy Trinity alumnus who lives at the college, said about 30 of his friends had been hospitalized after a hunger strike they began Sunday.
He said students were upset by the closeness of the church to the ruling party and restrictions on their speech, but were also upset over the Beyonce-Paulos meeting.
“She provoked the whole situation,” he said, accusing the patriarch of “practically a nonreligious act. It’s unacceptable, or inappropriate, to say the least.”
Authorities were trying to persuade the students to end their hunger strike, he said.
The college has 196 students training to work at the church, although not as clergymen.
The Orthodox Church is Ethiopia’s largest, claiming 45 million out of 77 million citizens as members. It is considered to be very close to the government.
College official Bedilu Assefa confirmed that students had complained, but said: “What they have done is they have raised some administrative issues regarding food and clinical facilities. Nobody has protested against Beyonce. Never.”
Not all the protesters were concerned with the singer, or even politics. Student Kinetibebeu Assefa, 25, said that he had joined the protest to demand an improvement in cafeteria food and the firing of some college officials.
“There is no problem with Beyonce,” he said. “But the (cafeteria) food is poisoned.”
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