By Ferede Gebre Yesus
July 14, 2021
Response to the above article –
The responsibility of the church in times of war: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God’ Mathew 5:9
I have heard some criticism of the church for either being silent or taking sides during the conflict in Tigray. As humans we have loyalties but Christianity teaches loyalty is to God, the embodiment of the truth and the Just. Church loyalty is therefore not to the family, tribe, or even country. The church is always a peacemaker. There is no compromise there.
When asked by one of his disciples “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times! … Mathew 18:21. In another verse Jesus allows things to stand on its head again (contrary to the human mind) when he said. ‘If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also…’ Luke 6:29. Jesus gave no loophole as an excuse to unleash violence.
Despite the above lessons, the history of the church has been violent. Examples are, Europe (crusade, inquisition, etc.) and Ethiopia (Susenyos’ civil war and ‘kibat heresy’). All these are obviously unbiblical, carnal manipulation, and abuse of the church’s authority by ambitious individuals.
The duty of the church is to work for the prevention of violence. It should renounce the resolution of disagreements through violence by the teaching of love, peace, and forgiveness at all times. The next step in the line of responsibility is to actively participate in mediation for peace like sending elders and emissaries to both parties before and during conflict periods. But in the situation where one attacks another with violence, then the church’s position should not be difficult to determine. It should be to stand along the side of justice. This usually shouldn’t be difficult to discriminate once we know who is defending and who is aggressive.
Though not as successful as the ethnic divisions inculcated, there have been several attempts to do same along religious lines. Bringing up the issue of ethnic or religious genocide for political consumption. It is also good to note that there is no religion that was overthrown from power in Ethiopia. For the common good it is better to see it as ‘It is the rulers’ religion that changed’: a Christian, Muslim or atheist. Of course orthodox Christianity has been a state religion until 1973 revolution. Ethiopia government policy was ever since ‘common country and private religion’. It is no more a Christian island and hope it will never be a Muslim state.
It is true that the Ethiopian Kings were orthodox Christians after conversion in 4th century, except Susinios (a convert to Catholicism) and probably Negashi who Muslim historians controversially claim has secretly converted to Islam. Also ‘gragn’ Mohammad was lord controlling most parts of Abysinia waring with Christian emperor, Gelawdiyos . This trend continued until 1973. Then it was Mengistu and Meles without any proclaimed religions and the last two, who claim to be evangelicals. A Politician may have his own religion (his interest) but country and politics has been a common interest for the rest of us.
For the faithfuls all countries are their own. True Christians or Muslims should find the whole world to be their home and country. They can live anywhere in the world. Spirituality and politics are different things .Let us not mix up these two .Let us not find a loop-hole to relate the two. Let us not to try to justify political policy and scheming with religion. Love of a country and flag are not the same as the love of God as some religious fanatics want us to believe. These are two different things and the latter is supreme. If we confuse this we will commit an error called idolatry. The first commandment is ‘I am the LORD your God ‘Let there be no God other than me, I am a jealous ‘
Many evangelicals may have supported the PM but not necessarily the war. There is no evidence, as some claim that Ethiopian evangelicals officially supported the war or its effort. Financially nor spiritually but they have complied with the government’s ‘law enforcement campaign in accordance to ‘obey your rulers’1 in the situation/allegation where ‘rebels’ or ‘freedom fighters’ have attacked the army (which was confirmed by their spokesperson). The unforeseen collateral harm on the civilian population was regrettable but the rebels should take some responsibility as well. Blaming the government and Ethiopian evangelicals is not fair. The problem in Ethiopia, now, is a contest of loyalty to God/ justice or loyalty to your tribe. Many, I am afraid, have chosen to align with the latter. Clear failings of contemporary teaching and workings of the evangelical church. Its members have fallen prey to tribal sentiments inculcated by the fallen regime
We should support a politician based on his ability to rule and political ideology but not on his religion and ethnicity. The ideology we can either share or oppose depending on our logical framework. Religion, apart from being a very private matter, is dogmatic, while nobody has the choice or power to determine one’s ethnicity.
1- Romans 13:1-2 says: “Obey the government, for God is the One who has put it there. … There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the law of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.