When the politicization of ethnicity and the politicization of religion meet and start feeding on each other, a society spins out of control; it goes over the precipice of blind violence and uncontrollable destruction from which it takes decades if not centuries to recover.
Consider the European Wars of Religion that lasted from the 16th to the early 18th century. The religious conflicts between Catholics and the supporters of the Reformation were intertwined with political and territorial ambitions. In Germany alone, a third of the population was killed in these wars, which is, as historians point out, almost twice the mortality rate of the First World War!
The effort to create in Ethiopia an ethnicity based Orthodox Täwahedo Synod in February 2023 was interlocked with political and territorial objectives. It was a dangerous mix of ethnic politics and religion. There were ominous signs that Ethiopia may be marching towards the precipice of an ethno-religious conflict. Religious emotions were boiling over. Some, and sadly the rebel Bishops, were working hard to ethnicize and politicize these religious emotions. Fortunately, the threat of a devastating ethno-religious turmoil was nipped in the bud.
Since this conflict was in part of a religious nature, we might as well refer to a passage from the Bible, “Render therefore to all their due. …Honour to whom honour is due.” (Romans 13:7). That is, we have to give credit where credit is due. The February 15, 2023 statement of the Holy Synod explicitly recognizes the constructive role PM Abiy Ahmad played in the peaceful resolution of the conflict, all the while respecting the Church’s independence, rules and regulations. We have thus to give credit where credit is due and thank the Prime Minister for having facilitated the resolution of the conflict.
Above all, we should be thankful for the calm, the humility, the steadfastness of the Holy Synod in its defense of the integrity of the Church and her teachings, and its generosity towards the rebel bishops. We must also be thankful for the courage the rebel Bishops showed in finally recognizing the unholiness of their acts, in repenting, and in coming back with humility into the fold of the Holy Synod. The reconciliation rolled back the dark clouds of a devastating ethno-religious conflict hovering over Ethiopia.
Would it that the PM’s constructive role in the resolution of this conflict, coming on the heels of the establishment of peace in Northern Ethiopia, be a harbinger of a peaceful life for Ethiopians, particularly in the Oromia kilil? Innocent Ethiopians–women, children, the elderly, farmers, traders, manual and office workers—are killed daily in this kilil for no other reason than their ethnicity or politics. That this madness should stop is the demand of all Ethiopians.
The PM has in his powers to bring this political insanity to an end. After having brought peace to Northern Ethiopia and played a constructive role in the resolution of the conflict between the rebel bishops and the Holy Synod, Ethiopians expect him now to roll up his sleeves and put himself to the task of putting an end to the senseless bloodletting and destruction in the Oromia kilil.
For the last few years, the hope for an alternative Ethiopia that lit up in 2018 has been receding and the darkness of despair spreading. Prime Minister Abiy has now the occasion to reverse this trend by grasping and accelerating the momentum for peace that he has created. He must mobilize the peace dividends of the end of the war in Tigray and of the nipping in the bud of a catastrophic ethno-religious conflict and use them to end the ethnic killings, persecution, dispossession, and uprooting of innocent Ethiopians in the Oromia kilil.
It appears there are forces and individuals in the government and the political party the PM has created (The Prosperity Party) who are committed to promoting ethnic interests and goals that are inimical to peace and unity in Ethiopia. It is obvious that they are subverting and derailing his publicly claimed pursuit of peace and unity. The Prime Minister should infer from the support Ethiopians gave him in the recent war and from the recognition he has received from the Holy Synod for the good work he has done that Ethiopians will always support his struggles against ethno-centric forces. The PM should mobilize and activate this support to bring peace and unity to Ethiopia.
He would then be building on his recent successes in peace-making and reconciliation. He would be fulfilling the many bright promises he has made to Ethiopians in his numerous talks and speeches, many of which are infused with patriotic sentiments. In bringing peace and unity to Ethiopia, he will be truthful to himself for he would be acting and living in ways that are in harmony with his proclaimed philosophy of Mädämer.
After his double success in peace-making, Ethiopians are now watching him, hoping that his actions will allow them to believe that hope will eventually triumph over despair.
Maimire Mennasemay, Ph.D. Scholar in Residence, Humanities/Philosophy Department, Dawson College, Montreal, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
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