Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church begin three days of protests on Monday as tensions with the authorities continue to grow.
At least three people were killed and multiple others wounded over the weekend in Shashemene town, in Oromia region, after security forces fired shots into a church, according to reports by media outlets linked to the church.
Clashes were reported in others areas in Oromia with the church claiming mass arrests of its followers in some areas in the region.
Last week, the church’s highest body, the synod, ordered its adherents to wear black as a sign of protest during the church’s Fast of Nineveh event starting on Monday.
It came after the church accused the government of aiding breakaway clergy from Oromia region – who appointed bishops without the synod’s knowledge.
The breakaway clergy said they had “overwhelming” support in Oromia.
A statement released by the federal government’s communication’s office did not say anything about the church’s accusations and the incidents of violence.
But it warned against unnamed forces that it said had unsuccessfully attempted to dismantle the country and were now working to worsen the problem.
Rallies were held in Dessie city, in the country’s north, and abroad in Washington DC.
Multiple celebrities have released statements expressing solidarity with the church while others have posted pictures – on social media platforms – of themselves wearing black.