Our History

RRAD: 50+ Years of Humanitarian Service

Organized by Solomon Mengistu,

Edited by Essubalew W/Selassie


The acronym RRAD is Refugee and Returnee Affairs Department of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church which serves refugees.

Ethiopia has a long history of hosting refugees. We may cite instances of Ethiopia hosting refugees in ancient times from near and far neighboring regions of the world. Some historians tell us that when the Roman Emperor Nero destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. among the Jews who fled Jerusalem came to Ethiopia and permanently settled. Another instance is the arrival of the Nine Saints in the 5th century, often mentioned in Ethiopian Church History, in Ethiopia to escape persecution by the Roman Emperors due to religious dispute over the nature of Jesus Christ.

The followers and family members of the Prophet Mohammed who preached belief in only one God, Allah, as against the prevailing belief in polytheism in Meca of Saudi Arabia, were persecuted due to their faith. The Prophet sent his followers in the 7th century to Christian Kingdom of Axum for safety. The Emperor of Axum hosted these refugees and allowed them to live in his kingdom without fear.

 In modern times Ethiopia has accepted refugees from different countries based on the approval of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention.

Refugee protection in the country is provided within the framework of the international and national refugee laws as well as the core international human rights treaties Ethiopia has ratified.

Formation of the ADHOC Committee-Before 1965

The continued insecurity in the neighboring countries and other regions of the world has resulted in sustained refugee arrivals in Ethiopia. Earlier than the current refugee influx to Ethiopia, some had come from countries under the Western Colonial rule, and Apartheid South Africa, including from the neighboring Southern Sudan.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) refugee assistance is as old as the refugee assistance of the country itself. The intervention of the Church commenced following the mass influxes of refugees into the country from South Sudan where civil war erupted inside North Sudan. The Southern Sudanese fought against North Sudan contending that as of African origin, the Northerners who considered themselves Arabs discriminated against them in holding civil authority and sharing economic benefits.

When refugees from South Sudan settled in Itang, Gambella, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the first to reach these refugees with aid.

In early 1960s Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, (EOTC), together with the World Council of Churches, (WCC), All African Council of Churches, (AACC), and other humanitarian organizations formed an Ad hoc Committee to assist the refugees. The Committee, which EOTC chaired, had an office adjacent to ‘Arada Giorigis’ Church compound that was the church initially provided to facilitate the work of the Committee.

Eventually, the Committee was upgraded to Refugee Counseling Service (RCS), in 1965 expanding its services to other fields in addition to meeting the minimum basic needs of the refugees. What initially was a small office with few staff providing the refugees with basic service of food and medical support, has now become an expanded department of EOTC-DICAC– RRAD with an extended service currently a total of 5,506 urban refugees from 24 different countries.