This Side of God’s Country: Ethiopia
By Tecola W. Hagos
“Every object of knowledge is known not as a result of its own nature, but of the nature of those who comprehend it.” Boethius (Book V, vi)
Before I get to the meat of my essay, I would like to express my good wish to all Ethiopian Muslims (and those all over the World) a happy Id al-Fitr celebration. Much can be learned about a particular country from the way it treats the helpless, the wayfarer, the stranger et cetera. The whole cannons of human civilization are based on such simple but far reaching principles of compassion to the weak, the stranger, and the poor. Without such human qualities, we might as well be seen as Komodo dragons.
The celebration of Id al-Fitr this Sunday in Ethiopia is a true testament of the great faith of a people, I mean Ethiopian People in toto. Id al-Fitr is the greatest of all festivals for Muslim Ethiopians and Muslims around the World. Watching on Ethiopian Television (ETV) hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian Muslims worshiping in the center of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where one finds Churches and Mosques side by side, in great freedom and dignity is a source of unfathomable pride for me. However, when I look around the nations in our neighborhood what I see are nations like Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen et cetera whose treatment of their indigenous and/or expatriate Christian population is absolutely deplorable.
In Saudi Arabia there is not a single Church of worship to serve the tens of thousands expatriate workers; even private worship in the private homes of individual Christians is perceived as a crime. In Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, et cetera Christians are murdered, kidnapped, and their Churches routinely vandalized or burned down. And I say to myself, watching on ETV the multitude of Muslims freely worshiping and promoting their religion with dignity and freedom right at the center of Addis Ababa that Ethiopia is truly God’s country that He set her up as a great example for all the peoples of the World to learn how to live in harmony with diversity of religion, race, ethnicity et cetera. Who is to say that is not God’s plan? Maybe that is why Ethiopia had never been extinguished as a sovereign nation over several thousand years.
I am sure that a benevolent God cannot endorse disharmony in society and cruelty against those who cannot defend themselves. How could we take silently the intolerance and barbarism of the Governments of Saudi Arabia and any of the Arab nations in their treatment of indigenous and expatriate Christians and minority groups as the will of God? Moreover, not only it is their moral responsibility, but also their covenant to respect and safeguard human rights and dignity as members of the United Nations.
II. God’s Children
It is a shame that individuals seeking refuge from persecution, hunger and deprivations in Arab countries are abused, often tortured, and murdered. When it comes to Ethiopians who are seeking such refuge as domestic workers the treatment is horrendous that would shame any Arab in the Middle East or elsewhere. The number of Ethiopian young women who committed suicide due to intolerable conditions of employment that amounts to slave labor and widely practiced abuse and physical torture is quite alarming. Several reports of international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly informed the public about the severity and scope of abuse of Ethiopian females who suffered greatly in the hands of their employers. None of the Arab Governments where such abuses took place have taken any remedial steps.
The Id al-Fitr is a singular moment for all Arab Governments to take a good hard look at their abusive behavior and their failure to protect the weak, the poor, the disfranchised and, most of all, the helpless stranger among whom is also the Ethiopian. I ask you all Arab Muslims that you read your own Holy Book, the Quran with care and commitment: “And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer…” An-Nisa (4:36), The Quran.
Ethiopia has been identified for hundreds of years as a Christian island in a sea of Moslems. However, that precarious existence being under constant threat of annihilation did not deter the many righteous Ethiopian Christian Emperors from providing safe sanctuary and ultimately a shared motherland to all Ethiopian Muslims. The greatness of Ethiopians was affirmed when the Prophet Mohammad himself when he was threatened of being destroyed by his opponents sent his close family members and those first followers of his new religion to go to Ethiopia where he believed they could be safe and treated with justice and dignity.
“The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) realized that he could not protect his followers form the attacks, and said ‘go to the Habesha, there is a Christian king there. There is justice in his kingdom. Habesha is the land of truth. Therefore, go there until we achieve victory with the help of Allah.’” This is a quotation from the venerated biographer of the Prophet, Ibn Eshaq.
Now, look what the Prophet’s Arab descendants and followers are doing to the descendants of the people of Ethiopia who protected and kept safe the Prophet Mohammad’s followers and relations. And it is also true that their conspiracy to destabilize and destroy Ethiopia has been their mission for generations.
III. Who dares harm God’s creation?
I cannot understand how people to be-fearing could take upon himself or herself to harm, torture, behead, murder any other human being that is also the creation of God. Governments, such as that of Saudi Arabia, Libya et cetera, due to their horrible treatment of human beings both indigenous and expatriate workers, are in fact defiling and besmirching the Holy places entrusted to them for upkeep. Where there is a single human being suffering under the brutal interrogations and inhuman punishments as victim of legal processes marred with tremendous flaws, does stain and degrade the sanctity of such places venerated by the Muslim believers. It is both a moral and logical contradiction to keep inanimate objects or particular places where some historic events took place as sacred and yet violate and abuse the very living human being in whom God’s greatest gift resides. Where there is injustice and cruelty done even to a single individual, God is also disrespected. The first duty of any Muslim ruler in the Middle East is to respect God’s creation—mankind. By allowing the abuse of Ethiopians and other domestic workers, Arabs are disrespecting and violating the sanctity of God’s handiwork.
In Libya during their months of uprising, black foreign workers were particularly targeted and mercilessly butchered. I am sure in Syria similar persecution might be taking place right now. Already some of the news coming out of Syria asserts such persecution of domestic workers is wide spread. All in all, I find almost all Arabs in general, both men and women, to be the most inhuman savages who abuse, violate, and disrespect their own people and black foreign workers in their societies. I do not think this characteristic is prompted due to their religion. In fact, if it were not for Islam, they would have been much worse than just blowing up themselves in order to kill enemies, or brutalize helpless young female domestic workers, or torture and abuse criminals in their prison systems. In all this savagery of most Arabs, I find the complacency of the Ethiopian Government far worse than the actual harm done to Ethiopian workers and refugees. If I were a leader commanding an army, I would go to war with any society that abuses a single Ethiopian.
One must be careful when putting labels on an entire society or people for being this or that. However, there are justifiable instances to label a particular society as criminal. For example, the German society was no less guilty of the genocide and brutality committed against the defenseless Jews in the Second World War, no less was the Japanese society blameless for the atrocities committed by its soldiers in China, Korea, and the Philippines in the Second World War. The Italian society of the time could be labeled also as barbaric during the occupation of Ethiopia in 1935-1941 where Rudolph Graziani committed mass atrocities, and now since the Italian people are opening a mausoleum to such war criminal, Italians can be labeled as barbaric people. I can offer very many instances from history from all over the world that particular societies could be labeled as participants in the savagery and brutality of their governments.
I do acknowledge that millions of innocent Arabs, especially in Iraq, have been killed by random bombings and ground fires in the hands of the Military of the United States and those of NATO troops whose forces are overwhelmingly Christians. But that has nothing to do with Ethiopians, even less with domestic workers in Arab countries. No associative guilt can be justified by any measurement. At any rate, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf States were fully cooperating with the Western forces in the devastation suffered by Iraqis. Moreover, far more violence is perpetrated by Arabs on other Arabs all over the Arab world than that committed by foreign powers. To all Arabs, my last statement is to urge them live by the vision and precepts of what the Id al-Fitr represents and stop the brutality and violent abuse of defenseless foreign workers and refugees. God Bless All Ethiopians.
Tecola W. Hagos
August 19, 2012
Copyright © Phineaus St. Claire, 2012