Harnessing age-old religious tolerance
Ethiopia is a country that stands out not only for religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence but also for the chemistry of citizens pursuing diametrically opposite faiths. In this exemplary land of tranquility and oneness, it doesn’t come as a surprise seeing Mosques abutting Churches and vice versa. If one goes to Merkator , which is claimed to be the largest open market in Africa, and looks up, one can have a first hand account of the crescent and star of Anwar Mosque and the cross of Raguel Church projected to the sky at a close range telling on the age -old healthy relation between followers of the two faiths.
Unlike other parts of the world, here in Ethiopia,it is not uncommon to see Muslims contributing to the building of churches while Christians to mosques. During epiphany members of both faiths see off Arks to rivers and escort them back to respective churches. Strange as many may find it, there are also churches,which go by Muslim names Like Abdela Micheal in Wello. During religious anniversaries like Christmas and Eid-Al-Fitre, setting differences aside, with a spirit of fraternity, the Muslim faithful and Christians exchange messages of best wishes.
Just as they close ranks when the sovereignty of the nation is under threat and bring aggressors to their knees, Ethiopian Muslims and Christians also extend helping hands during ploughing and harvesting seasons. In the traditional fund generating schemes like Eqube and also in self help associations like Idir,useful when disaster strikes, they back scratch each other. As the bond of citizens is tight and the national tree of peaceful coexistence and tolerance has sent roots deep, weathering the seed of discord the clicking between the two often cruise to a safe water.
“Even at times when various kings and Sultans from different parts of the country were in faction to assume power, history tells us that the Ethiopian people and religions were living in unity and tolerance,” is what president Dr. Mulatu Teshome reiterated this week when the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia lunched a Peace-Building Training Manual this week.
He also noted though citizens are followers of different faiths and religious denominations, with spectacular harmony, they have peacefully surfed the tides of time.
Needless to say, it is due to the confluence of the spirit of tolerance forefathers bequeathed to this generation and the conducive situation the constitution made possible, the peace-building and sustaining efforts turn out successful.
Though Ethiopia is a secular state, where their domains overlap,in areas of development and maintaining peace the government and religious institutions work hand in gloves.
According focal attention to peaceful coexistence marked decisive both by the government and religious institutions for spurring development, the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia works towards the furtherance of the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of citizens following different religions in the country.
According to religious leaders, the spirit of respect and understanding among different religious institutions is attributable to the right religious teachings. Though their way of expressing it differ, all religions preach the same thing— peace and unity.
To ensure stability and to sustain it as well as to actualize the country’s march towards renaissance, religious institutions need streamline their teachings regarding peace and unity. It is to this effect the Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia launched a Peace-Building Training Manual this week. The manual is prepared in such a way to serve a teaching input on the ideals of peace and considerateness taking excerpts and examples from the Holy books.
As to General Secretary of the Council Megabi Zerihun Degu the manual,which is divided into five chapters, clearly depicts that Holy books are sources of peaceful coexistence,considerateness,love,oneness,lawfulness and development. The manual, jointly organized by the religious institutions, is also believed to forge the ties of the institutions and facilitate ways forward. The council is in full gear to see to responsibilities it is entrusted with.
The manual helps align the scattered and discordant efforts the religious institutions had been exerting so far. It bolsters efforts underway at national level to create peaceful citizens, decisive task forces that help crown development oriented moves with success.
The manual is believed to play a decisive role in maintaining and passing down to posterity Ethiopians’ peaceful coexistence that almost turned synonymous with the country.
Ethiopia, today, is a country where a sustainable peace and swift economic growth that make people beneficiaries is ensured. Apart from maintaining its peace, Ethiopia is playing a role in ensuring regional peace. Hence citizens have to be vigilant in maintaining,nurturing and cherishing such values.
Let us conclude with the message of Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Court President Sheikh Kiar Shen Aman “All seven religions who jointly worked to make the peace-building manual a reality,should be committed to reach the book to users.”//
“When you need peace, you must give one to others!”
Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch His Holiness Abune Mathias.