Ethiopians yearn for religious experience
BY MICHAEL SWAN, THE CATHOLIC REGISTER
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – Ethiopia is not like the rest of Africa. Just ask an Ethiopian.
Ethiopians cook the hottest food in Africa, endure the coldest rainy season, speak the most languages and brag they have no significant history of being anyone’s colony. The Italians moved in and called themselves colonial masters for six years, but most Ethiopians were barely aware of their presence in the late 1930s.
This was never a mission country. Christianity was introduced in the first century and its rulers declared the Ethiopian empire officially Christian early in the fourth century. The country is still almost two-thirds Christian.
Christians have lived side by side and at peace with Muslims since Mohammed and a few dozen of his followers fled persecution in Mecca and found refuge under the Christian emperor of the Kingdom of Aksum. Today Muslims are a third of the population and Harar is still one of the four pilgrimage cities of Islam.
Catholics are a tiny part of the mix — 0.8 per cent of the population, just over 800,000 people. Capuchin Franciscan Father Tilaye Alemeshet, rector of Addis Ababa’s Catholic seminary, is an expert in the Ethiopian Eastern rite liturgy and is well aware of the huge numbers in the corresponding Orthodox Church — 40 million Orthodox Christians, 700,000 clergy in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. But numbers are not his measure of success.
“Our goal is not increasing our number or competing with other communities. We want to really serve any human person here. And we do it in different ways,” he said. “As long as we work for the Kingdom of God, our wish is that people will see our work and our service and give glory to God.”
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