ADDIS ABABA (HAN) May 5. 2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News. BY MOLLA MITIKU AYENEW. Ethiopian Christians throughout the country have celebrated their Easter Holiday last Sunday. Many Muslims have also attended the ceremony. This is a simple implication of the peaceful coexistence of Ethiopians. The social bond among Ethiopians is so strong that they live together helping one another during time of difficulty. They also cooperate at any social issues like weeding and mourning regardless of religion.
W/ro Hawa and W/ro Hana are neighbours. They live in Addis Ababa for the past sixty years. They are too close to one another. They brought up their children together. They enjoyed what they have together and shared their mourning as well. Their close relationship lasted to this time. Now, their boys and daughters have grown up and established their own family. They usually celebrate together whenever there is any holiday or social occasion.
They all along with their families came to their parents home whenever there is any holiday or occasion no matter whether it belongs to Christians or Muslims. They all come together and enjoy or mourn as what they used to do so in those old days. In fact, I have never seen a family loving to one another like those two neighbouring households. This is one of the indications of the strong bond, tolerance and love that Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia have had since time immemorial.
Ethiopia is one of the countries where there was no freedom of religion at all some three decades ago and before. The dominant notion in the country was ‘one country; one religion.’
People were deprived of their rights to perform their religious tasks. Even they had no rights to gather in their religious institutions. That imposition on religion, has now become a history. Ethiopians have been enjoying their religious freedom as it is stated in the constitution. The right of the people to follow any kind of religion has already respected. The law of the country has also guaranteed the people to perform their religion freely.
As a result, the number of religious institutions has increased from time to time; so do the number of followers. Recent researches indicate that there are about 60,000 mosques in Ethiopia. Of these over 250 are found in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and AUC Headquarters. Most of these mosques were built after the coming of EPRDF into power in 1991.
According to the census held in 2007, there were about 62.8 per cent Christians in Ethiopia. Of these 43.5 per cent of them were Orthodox, and 19.3 per cent were other Christians. The number of Muslim population was 33.9 per cent. There were also 2.6 per cent Traditional and 0.6 per cent others. This is due to the fact that religious freedom is guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution. The rights and freedom of Ethiopians has respected and protected.
Ethiopia, with diversified religion and people, is a model to the world for the tolerance and love among believers of various religions. Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully with mutual respect, love and sympathy to one another.
Unlike other countries in the world, Ethiopia one of the populous countries in Africa with more than 80 nations, nationalities and peoples has been enjoying peace and harmony among religions throughout its history.
It is possible to consider the cases in Israel, Lebanon, India, parts of Europe, Asia and other African countries as an example to really understand the religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Ethiopia. In those countries there were/are religious conflicts. Those conflicts had/have been ending in loses of several lives and destruction of ample property. However, such kind of religious turmoil has never become a case among Ethiopians.
Some analysts argue that Ethiopians are intermarried; they work and live together. They never beset and lead to conflict whenever they face any negative religious tones. Rather they solve their problems together as they usually give precedence to peaceful co-existence.
In the rest of the world, it is usual to meet anyone who harps on religious differences. Instead, the Ethiopian people considered their differences as their beauty. This was true in the past regimes even in the absence of religious freedom. It has been strengthened and persisted since the coming of EPRDF into power having overthrown the military rule in 1991.
In other words, while religious differences are causing havoc around the world, Ethiopians have been living peacefully with respects and love to one another. The country has sustained its being a model country for religious tolerance.
However, some groups have been attempting to destabilize Ethiopia under the pretext of religion. These groups exerted unreserved efforts to export religious conflicts to the peaceful country.
Despite these ill attempts of destabilizing Ethiopia and jeopardize its fast development, Ethiopians throughout the country, regardless of their religion, have been living side by side.
There is no any Muslim or Christian who displays hate, violence or anger towards others. They definitely will continue to enjoy religious harmony and tolerance. No matter what the enemies have attempted to create a crack among the people, religious tolerance has already become a norm among Ethiopians.
Therefore, the recent ill practice initiated by different groups doesn’t really reflect the very nature of the Ethiopian people. These groups include chauvinists, rent collectors, extremists and other politically motivated individuals. They have been attempting to poison the long lasting peaceful coexistence of the Ethiopian people and jeopardize the fast economic development of the country under the pretext of religion.
These groups have been exerting unreserved efforts to create conflicts among various religions and even within the same religion. Some ten years ago they worked hard to bring the Christians and Muslims to a confrontation. They trained some youngsters and let them to go to Churches dressing in Muslim clothes and others to disturb mosques wearing Christian clothes.
That was intentionally made by some politically motivated groups who don’t want to see peaceful Ethiopia. However, though there was some confusion at the beginning, the people took no much time to comprehend those ill activities. They alienated those groups or individuals who were exerting unreserved efforts to aggravate conflict among the Christians and the Muslims.
In recent years, some extremists have also attempted to lead the Muslim Community into bloodshed. They have worked to mislead the people under the pretext of religion. They misled a number of youngsters and used them as an instrument to carry out their hidden political agenda; thereby, to erode the religious freedom guaranteed to Ethiopians by the Constitution.
The entire population, religious fathers and leaders have also witnessed that religious freedom is respected in Ethiopia. The rights to perform religious duties freely is guaranteed and practised in the past twenty five years. Therefore, there is no reason at this time to blame the government of Ethiopia in connection to religion.
What posed by some anti-peace groups in connection to Islam is so irrelevant to the real condition in the country and that couldn’t reflect the interest of the Muslim Community. Rather, they have a hidden agenda behind the curtain. Obviously, it is destabilizing the country and jeopardizes its development efforts. Those groups who felt discomfort, in one or another reason, have persistently working to hamper Ethiopia’s development and stability under the religious pretexts.
Their attempts usually fall through due to the strong belief of the people to religious tolerance and peaceful existence. However, there is still need to work industriously to strengthen and maintain religious tolerance.
All religions have religious duty to promote peace, love and hope. They could meaningfully advocate tolerance, mutual respect and sympathy among their followers. Religious fathers and leaders should play a significant role in this regard. In fact, it is also essential to comprehend their capability and support their efforts to peace.
Of course, this is possible under an environment where religious freedom is guaranteed. Although religions have the responsibility to work industriously for peace, there are other stakeholders: the government, political parties, peace institutions and the public. They should share their part for the thriving of lasting peace and end of conflicts.
Extremists, chauvinists and rent seekers exerted unreserved effort to use religion as a pretext for their hidden agenda as religious people considered any religious duty for granted and never hesitate to confront. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the need to work hard so as to curb those ill attempts.
All stakeholders should come together to fight those anti-peace groups so as to maintain the peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance of the people. The government, religious fathers and the entire Ethiopian population, being hand in glove, should strive to make hay the hidden agenda of destabilize the country and jeopardize its development.