Religion and Ethiopia
By Yilma Bekele
Two important meetings were held a week ago. One was in Addis Abeba and the other in Washington DC. Both were concerning our motherland and the future. That is where the similarities end. One was intended to continue the path of destruction chartered by the current regime while the other was trying to build on what has been achieved throughout millennia and proven to work beyond expectations. The DC conference was an affirmation of the wise and keen insight of our forefathers that laid the foundation for the place we call home.
Christianity and Islam are the two most related faiths that trace their origin in our own neighborhood. Ethiopia is one place where the two have converged in a peculiar manner and have managed to lead a mutually assured loving existence. The bond between the two is so deep no mortal man can break that and live to tell about it. A few have tried to no avail. As evil goes the meeting in Addis was another attempt to create a wedge between the two faiths and their followers. It was vintage TPLF brainchild or brain fart.
Why our country has succeed in this endeavor while most of mankind is still trying to figure out how to come to terms with religion and State issue is a wonderful subject for our historians. I am by no means a historian but I will attempt to share the little I know from my sketchy reading of our glorious past.
Exact date for the emergence of Christianity in Ethiopia is not yet settled. The earliest and reference to the introduction of Christianity to Ethiopia is in the New Testament (Acts 8:26:38) when Philip the Evangelist converted an Ethiopian court official in the 1st Century AD. Credit is given to Saint Frumentius as the first to bringing Christianity to the Axumite Kingdom. Frumentius a Syro-Phoenician Greek from Tyre along with his brother Edesius accompanied by their uncle Meropius were shipwrecked on the Red Seacoast around the year 316 AD. The two boys were taken as slaves to the King of Aksum. Upon the king’s death they were set free but at the request of the queen they stayed to help in the education the young heir Ezana. When Ezana came of age the two brothers returned to Tyre but Frumentius was able to convince the Patriarch of Alexandra, Athanasius to send a Bishop to Ethiopia. In the year 328 Frumentius was sent back as the first Bishop. He succeeded in baptizing King Ezana initiating the spread of Christianity. The Ethiopians refer to Frumentius as Kesete Birhan (Revealer of the Light) and Abbba Selama (Father of Peace) and he is the our first Abune.
Islam came to Ethiopia around 615AD. The first Muslims were immigrants from Mecca due to persecution by the ruling Quraysh tribe. The prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) felt Ethiopia to be a safe haven for his relatives and companions. Moslem historians refer to it as the first Higra or migration and the Christian Emperor as Ashama ibn Abjar. The prophet instructed his followers to ‘respect and protect Ethiopia and as well as live in peace with Ethiopian Christians. Today Harar, Ethiopia is considered the fourth holy city of Islam with 82 Mosques three of which date from the 10th. Century.
The conference held in Washington DC by The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Exile was an affirmation of this historical bond between the two religions and people. It was a proud moment building on the strong and unshakeable foundation laid centuries back that still endures despite the attempt by a few to break what God and Allah has willed.
On the other hand the meeting held in Addis was a flagrant attempt to saw dissent and weaken the bond between religion and people. It was an embarrassing moment and a shameful act that has brought shame and sorrow to country and people. It was the reflection of Kilil brought to the realm of religion. It was another ill hatched plan by Meles and company to bully our ancient land and a feeble attempt to divide and conquer. That it fell on deaf ears is no surprise. As I said our house is not built on sand but on sold granite that no amount of man made idiot trick will cause any harm. I would venture to say it ends up making it stronger and mightier burning the usperes to recoil with shame and horror.
Our Abun’s in Washington DC were celebrated for their forceful solidarity with our Moslem brothers and sisters while the usurper in Addis was shouted down by our Abun’s that steadfastly stood their ground despite the threat of violence including death. Our deep appreciation to the Abun’s strength in withstanding such ugly behavior by the usurper Paulo’s and his henchmen fills our heart with pride and reminds us of our beloved father Abune Petros and his unyielding faith in country and people in front of the Fascist firing squad.
The leader of the Italian Invasion of our land Gen. Rodolfo Graziani proclaimed “The Duce (Mussolini) will have Ethiopia, with or without Ethiopians.” Abune Petros replied, “The cry of my countrymen who died due to your nerve-gas and terror machinery will never allow my conscious to accept your ultimatum. How can I see my God if I give a blind eye to such a crime?’ That is the footsteps our current Abune are following. We thank them for making us proud both in Addis and Washington DC. We praise them for their leadership and their timely message to stir that strong feeling of what it means to be an Ethiopian both as a Christian and a Moslem. No one can break apart that God and Allah has joined together.
As he has done with an appointment of a cadre Patriarch the Meles regime is busy sawing dissent and animosity in the Moslem community. There is no trick left unturned. Churches have been burnt to put the blame on our Moslem citizens and Moslems have been accused of being terrorists, wahabists etc. As he has put Cadre Paulos in power today the regime is protecting the illegal Moslem leader and placing his internal security around him.
All politics is local. It is with this in mind Ethiopians in the Bay Area are traveling to Los Angles to attend a World Wide demonstration the weekend of June 4th. against the regime’s interference in religion in general and the attempt to destroy our ancient heritage, Waldeba Monastery in Northern Ethiopia. Those interested in attending this event can email Waldeba Monastery firstname.lastname@example.org.