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 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 17:08 GMT
Ethiopians urged to help hungry
Patriarch Paulos
The Orthodox Church under Patriarch Paulos plays a key role
The head of Ethiopia's Orthodox Church has called on Ethiopians to help those hit by drought.

In a Christmas message, Patriarch Paulos said it was the duty of Christians to help those in dire need.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said that more than 11 million people could face starvation in the coming months because of the worst drought in the country's history.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has compared the present situation with the drought in 1984-85, in which a million people are estimated to have died.

'Duty'

In his message the patriarch urged to his compatriots to "stretch their helping hands" to the millions in need because of failing rains.

Hungry villager in Ethiopia [pic: WFP]
Ethiopia is as badly hit by the drought as the whole of Southern Africa

"It is the duty of Christians to provide assistance and show compassion to others who are in dire need of help," he told the congregation.

The patriarch's call for aid was echoed by religious leaders of other denominations in Ethiopia.

President Girma Wolde Giorgis has donated a month's salary to combat the food shortages, and civil servants and Ethiopians abroad have also contributed to the effort, AP news agency reports.

Last Christmas, the patriarch warned of the dangers of HIV/Aids and called on the 25m-strong Christian community in the country to fight the stigma associated with the disease.

Egypt too

Meanwhile, Egypt has marked Christmas for the first time as a national day.

Pope Shenuda III
Pope Shenuda heads Egypt's 7m-strong Coptic community

In the past, only Christians - known as Copts in Egypt - were given Christmas as a holiday, while the rest of Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country, worked as usual.

One of President Hosni Mubarak's sons, Gamal, attended the Christmas Eve mass celebrated by the Coptic Pope, Shenuda III, at Cairo's St Mark's Cathedral on Monday night.

Correspondents say Gamal Mubarak, a senior figure in Egypt's ruling party, is being seen as a potential successor to his father.


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02 Jan 03 | Africa
10 Feb 02 | Middle East
07 Dec 02 | Africa
22 Nov 02 | Country profiles
12 Nov 02 | Africa
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