Monday, December 09, 2013

Controversy splits Ethiopian church in Canada: Missing funds ($300,000), bad governance, intimidation

(Dec 08, 2013, (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS))--A North End Ethiopian church has been riven by allegations of missing funds, bad governance and intimidation, and now the internal strife may end up in court. Four dissident members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on Mountain Avenue have received letters from the church's lawyer banning them from Sunday services.

In response, the dissidents, many of whom founded the local church 20 years ago, have made a formal complaint to the Canada Revenue Agency asking the CRA to investigate what they say is a board hand-picked by the priest, Aba Fikreselasie Tsegaw Terefe, who has rewritten the bylaws to give himself more power.

The dissidents, part of a group of 20, have also demanded an accounting of thousands of dollars in donations they say ended up in the priest's personal bank account. "This is Canada. You can't do things like they did back home," said Lemma Mekonnen, who was among seven of the dissidents who sat down with the Free Press recently. "You have to be accountable. We say, 'No, what you're doing is not right.' We just don't have the stomach to keep quiet."

In a statement issued through Winnipeg lawyer Alfred Thiessen, the church's board of directors disputed all those allegations: "These false statements have all been addressed internally to the full and complete satisfaction of its membership and the congregation's support for Aba Fikreselasie Tsegaw Terefe remains steadfast.  Read more from Winnipeg Free Press »

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