Today marks 72 years since the execution of Abuna Petros, by the Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia for publicly condemning colonialism, invasion and massacre.
We all have come to live in days with our marked freedom in hand, we have been set free from all the possibilities that may have enslaved and owned us, once in a while it is good to look back to those days where there were many sacrifices made to give us the nurtured grounds we now take for granted that we fail to recognize and celebrate the acts of great figures that got in between freedom and enslavement and lost their lives in the process. We are talking about one of the many personalities who passed on such a legacy to cherish,Abuna Petros. Abuna Petros was an Ethiopian bishop and martyr, executed on 29 July 1936 by the Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia for publicly condemning colonialism, invasion and massacre marking today exactly 72 years since executed.
In 1935, Italian troops invaded Ethiopia. Aboune Petros went with Emperor Haile Selassie I at the northern war front where he assisted the wounded. He attended the violence used by the fascists in particular against civilians. Following the Italian victory at the Battle of Maychew, Ethiopian Patriots fold to areas in the south and Abune Petros went to the Monastery of Debre Libanos. He used to question the ongoing war as, how Italy, a Christian country, would occupy in such a brutal manner another Christian peaceful country, Ethiopia? While some priests of Addis Ababa accept the presence of fascists, Aboune Petros denounced the killings of Ethiopians by Italian soldiers. Aware of his popularity, the Italians, with the help of priests, sent letters to him to the change of camp by offering a peaceful life in a sumptuous residence in the capital. Aboune Petros hastened to refuse.
During his last speech, he said:
“My countrymen, do not believe the fascists telling you that the Patriots are bandits, the Patriots are people who are fighting to free us from the terror of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are in front of me and you, who have come from far, terrorize and violently occupy a weak and peaceful country: our Ethiopia. God gives to the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. An Ethiopian land can never accept the orders of the invading army. Land of Ethiopia; I condemn you if you accept such an invasion.”
Shortly after, Abuna Petros was made to seat on a chair and shot with bullets by many Italian soldiers. He then became a national martyr in Ethiopia. Following this, many Ethiopians joined patriots and continued war with Italian soldiers for freedom, which was made possible by May 5, 1941.
Nowadays, Aboune Petros remains a famous Ethiopian history. A memorial statue is erected in 1946 near St. George’s Cathedral, Addis Ababa and the author Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin wrote a play on his last days. He now also is named Abune Petros by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a church is built by his name.