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Ethiopian church groups call for US LGBT tour group to be banned from country

Toto Tours planned a trip to the East African country for October this year

2019-06-05

Words: Steve Brown

Ethiopian church groups have called for a US-based company which organises tours for LGBTQ to be banned from entering the country.

In the African country, many people are deeply religious and disapprove of homosexuality, which can be punished by up to 15 years in prison under Article 629 of the Ethiopian Criminal Code.

And now, the owner of the LGBTQ tour company, Toto Tours, has revealed he has received threats and hate messages on social media after planning a visit to the conservative, anti-gay country. 

Dan Ware told the BBC Amharic service: "We are humble and loving people, we come with no harm in mind, nothing we do is going to harm anybody, and yet we are being threatened with harm.

"The eyes of the world will be on us when we come and whatever is done to us will reflect tremendously on the Ethiopian culture and its tourism industry."

The itinerary for the tour included a stop at Bahir Dar - the centre of Christian mysticism - as well as Lalibela, which is famous for its ancient churches and both locations are in the Amhara region.

Now, the president of Selestu Me'et - the coalition of Ethiopian Orthodox church associations - has called for a ban on the group entering the country and claimed it is because their religion 'condemns' homosexuality.

Dereje Negash said: "They should not be allowed to leave their mark. Our religion condemns this act, and it's disgraceful."

Although homosexuality can be punished with a prison sentence, it's not known whether Toto Tours would be violating the Ethiopian law if they visit.