An Ethiopian monk, who once carried only the cross and Bible in a land famous for its rock-hewn churches, is now picking up a rifle to march into battle against Tigrayan rebels in a war that is tearing the nation – and the Orthodox Christian Church – apart.
The monk, whose name means “servant of Mary”, signed up to join the Ethiopian military, weeks after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on all able-bodied men to join the fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
It launched a rebellion in November in its heartland of Tigray after a bitter fall-out with Mr Abiy over his political reforms.
Orthodox Christians constitute 43% of Ethiopia’s population, making them the largest and most influential religious group in the country.
And the conflict has divided many of them. The 6th Century Debre Damo Monastery, built up a sheer 80ft (24m) cliff in the mountains of Tigray, was among the sites Eritrean troops allegedly looted of its old manuscripts and other cultural treasures.