Arcishop Abune Petros
Abune Petros was an archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in much of the central and eastern parts of Ethiopia during the late 1920s and early 1930s. When Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, Abune Petros went to the frontline to help the wounded, consecrate the dead and preach the Gospel.
During that time he witnessed first-hand how the invading army – with the help of nerve gas and technologically advanced weaponry – burned down many villages and indiscriminately killed innocent civilians.
In the midst of the invasion, Abune Petros went to the monastery church of Debre Libanos to urge the priests and monks to fast and pray for the mercy of God to the people of Ethiopia. He continued to plead with the people of Ethiopia not to be afraid of the terror and violence, but to stand up for their belief and country and resist the invasion.
Seeing him as a significant threat to their mission, the Italians moved quickly to arrest him and to give him the ultimatum to stop preaching against the occupation and accept the Italian authorities in Addis Ababa or face imminent execution.
Abune Petros refused to comply with the ultimatum and said:
"The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime."
His defiance prompted the Italians to sentence him to death. On 29 July 1936 he was taken to an execution chamber where many people and the Italian army officers and generals were waiting. When he was asked to say his last words, he said the following words:
"My fellow Ethiopians, do not believe the Fascists if they tell you that the patriots are bandits, the patriots are people who yearn for freedom from the terrors of fascism. Bandits are the soldiers who are standing in front of me and you, who came from far away to violently occupy a weak and peaceful country. May God give the people of Ethiopia the strength to resist and never bow to the Fascist army and its violence. May the Ethiopian earth never accept the invading army's rule."
Upon delivering his final words, Abune Petros was brutally murdered. Fascist Italy was defeated and driven out of Ethiopia four years later in 1941.