Four days after the government declared a state of emergency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has temporarily moved 60 of its missionaries out of the country.
Those missionaries and the mission’s leaders, President Robert J. Dudfield and Sister Darice B. Dudfield of Australia, are now in Kenya, church spokesman Sam Penrod said in a statement issued Saturday morning.
The church also changed the assignments for an additional 10 missionaries, Ethiopians who were serving in their home country. Penrod said decisions about what was done with those 10 “were made to best meet the individual needs of the missionaries and their families.”
The moves were motivated by the Ethiopia’s civil unrest, Penrod said. War has torn the northern part of the country since November 2020, when the government allowed soldiers from Eritrea to enter Ethiopia and join Ethiopian military attacks on rebel forces in the Tigray region, according to an explanation of the roots of the conflict by the BBC.
The United States ordered non-emergency government employees to leave Ethiopia, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa said Saturday on its website.
“Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning. The situation may escalate further and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions,” the embassy said, according to Reuters.
Thousands have died during the conflict, and Tigray soldiers now have marched within 200 miles of the capital of Addis Ababa, according to the Washington Post.
Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers declared the state of emergency on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. It is scheduled to last for six months.
Tigray forces and their allies pose a “grave and imminent danger” to the country’s existence, the council said in its declaration.
The Dudfields have led the Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission from the capital for 16 months. The mission was organized in July 2020. Previously, Ethiopia was part of the church’s The country was previously part of the Uganda Kampala Mission.
“All missionaries will continue to serve under the direction of their mission president,” Penrod said. “Further decisions on where these missionaries will be assigned will be made as the situation in Ethiopia is evaluated.
“Our prayers are with the members of the church and the people of Ethiopia as they face these difficult and unknown circumstances.”
Ethiopia is home to four Latter-day Saint branches with 1,800 members.