Ethiopia, where life is governed from above

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – If you are a vegetarian and happen to be in Addis Ababa at this time of year, you will be feeling very lucky as almost every restaurant will be serving vegetarian buffets and little else.

It is the season of Lent for Ethiopian Orthodox believers, who make up more than 40% of Ethiopia’s total population of 80-million. So fasting in this season is not only for the deeply religious Christian Orthodox families but also for almost everyone else — even the Muslims, who make up 35% of the population, and the Protestant Christians, who make up the remaining 20%, have a hard time justifying why they are not fasting.

You see, much about the practice of religion and the participation in religious festivals is about the unquestioned existence of God, which is omnipresent in Ethiopia.

Take the town of Mekelle where I teach — the selling of meat in the area during Lent is a sin. Establishments that dare to sell it will be cursed and shunned; priests will ban their followers from going there until the restaurants or butcheries have asked for forgiveness and been sprayed with holy water.

Even someone like me, who has a typical Muslim name, is governed by the season, as meat is rarely available. If you do find some, it might be cheaper than usual. After all, supply is not necessarily controlled by demand in my part of Ethiopia; God also lends a helping hand.

He also takes responsibility for everything positive that is going on at the moment and whatever positive thing might happen in the future — starting with the “good morning” every day (to which the standard reply is “praise be to God”) to the national economy, which is dependent on agriculture and, in turn, rain. God gets praise for bringing the rains or, if they were not sufficient, it will be said: “It is not his will.”

You do not have to look hard for God in Ethiopia. Just sit cramped in the back seat of an old blue-and-white minibus in Addis, dubbed blue devils because of the drivers’ reckless driving and rudeness. But it is not for the lack of God’s presence — the first thing you will notice are all the biblical quotes scrawled on the insides and outsides of the taxis.  Read Full Story on Mail & Guardian