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The Church as a victim of religion- based violence and a mediator in conflict resolution: The case of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Presented.

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Presentation on theme: "The Church as a victim of religion- based violence and a mediator in conflict resolution: The case of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Presented."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Church as a victim of religion- based violence and a mediator in conflict resolution: The case of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Presented on: EED Alumni Conference, Stellenbosch, SA By: Sebilu Bodja

2 Facts about Ethiopia  Population- 74 million  Size- 1.12 mill. Sq. Kms (three times the size of Germany)  More than 80 ethnic groups and languages  Federal form of government (9 regions, 2 chartered Federal cities)  Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and employs about 85% of the population  More than 50% of the population living below poverty line ($1/day/person)

3 Introduction Three major faith groups dominate the religious landscape of Ethiopia.  Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) – 44%  Muslims – 33.9%  Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians – 18.2%  Historical records show that Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia in the early 4 th century. EOC has the majority of its adherents in the Northern and North central part of the country  Ethiopia is said to have been first exposed to Islam when Muslims persecuted in Saudi Arabia crossed the Red Sea and sought a refuge in the North Eastern part of the country and were favorably accepted by the Habesha King, Nejashi, who was not a Muslim himself.

4 Introduction -2  Protestantism was brought to Ethiopia principally through missionary activities of Germans, Swedes and Norwegians in late 19 th century  Ethiopia prouds itself for religious tolerance and no major cases of religion-based violence have been witnessed in recent history  Violent clashes have been observed in recent years in some pockets of the country

5 The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY)  It is a Lutheran Church founded by Hermannesburg Mission of Germany and the Church of Sweden before 110 years.  It became a national, indigenous Church officially registered by the government in 1959.  It had 20,000 members in 1959  Today the Church has presence in all regions of the country and has more than 5 million members  It is the fastest growing Lutheran Church in Africa

6 Thank you!

7 Problem statement Inter-religious relations are affected by a number of factors. Among others, the following are few to mention: a. Legacy of past relations b. Numerical proportion of faith groups c. Legal frameworks governing religious groups d. Global and national religious developments related to local relationships  Despite a good history of tolerance and co-existence, violent forms of religious conflicts have been observed involving Muslims and Christians.

8 Problem statement -2  The EECMY suffered losses in the recent violence that took place in the South western part of the country in 2006.  It was a major actor in the mediation process in the aftermath of the conflict. The study tried to see to these roles of the Church and sought to answer of the following questions: a. How did the church handle these conflicting roles? b. What were the outcomes? c. And how did it affect current inter-religious relations?

9 Methodology  Both primary and secondary sources were used  Primary- Interview with individuals with first-hand accounts of the conflict  Secondary – reports by national and international bodies working on religious issues

10 Conflict areas covered by the study  Two areas in the South Western part of the country – Jimma and Illuababora zones of the Oromia National Regional State.  These are predominantly Muslim areas with a sizable EOC believers in urban areas. Evangelical protestants are a growing minority.  The EECMY has a large presence in the area through its diverse social, development and spiritual progams

11 Religious freedom in retrospect  The EOC remained a privileged faith group in many respects in the past. Ethiopian kings made it a state religion and in some instances received direct budgetary support  Muslims were not given as much space as the EOC but were not discriminated against.  As relatively new entrants to in the religious landscape, protestants were largely marginalized and suffered serious human rights abuses  After the overthrow of the communist regime, the new Ethiopian constitution clearly stipulated freedom of religion

12 Religious freedom in retrospect -2  The constitution clearly separated state and religion and presented the Ethiopian state as a secular one  All religious groups were treated before the law equally  However, the legacy of the past has tremendous influence in the way different religious groups exercise their constitutional right

13 Inter-faith relations in the study areas  A number of factors come into play to affect inter- faith relations.  No single factor is solely responsible for shaping religious relations  For the purpose of this study, the following factors are considered a. Global factors - ‘War on terror’- and invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq - Perception in local communities that war on terror is a covert war on Islam - Middle east conflict

14 Inter-faith relations in the study areas -2 b. National and local factors - changes in the religious demography - Diminishing influence of the EOC’s legacy -Religious freedom and competition for converts

15 Circumstances leading up to the conflict 1. Sectarianism among Muslims - The proliferation of Muslim missionaries from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc. and the divide long sects  Wahhabi movement: the teaching is rooted in Saudi Arabia and imposes strict laws on dressing, appearance and other forms of lifestyles.  Kawarija movement: it is an ultra-fundamental teaching originated from Pakistan. The adherents of the sect seek to work underground, committed to studying the ‘Quoran’, envision the entire Islamization of Ethiopia, consider all non-Muslims as infidel and forbid the payment of taxes to a secular government.

16 Circumstances leading up to the conflict -2 2. Weakening legacy of the EOC’s influence - As thee areas are predominantly Muslim, the new religious freedom and autonomy brought with it a big challenge for minority religious groups to maintain their historical advantages.

17 Causes and dimensions of the conflict  The conflict started as a simple fight between individuals on the eve of a Christian Holiday. The local Muslims demanded that the ceremony place should be changed because it is near the Mosque.  The fight began in a village and in a short period of time covered many villages across districts.

18 Causes and dimensions of the conflict  The violence involved: a. burning down Church buildings and properties and immediately converting them into mosques. b. forcing Christians to immediately renounce their faith and convert to Islam c. beheading of Christians who refused to convert to Islam d. burning down houses and properties belonging to Christians; a case that occasionally involved Muslims who were targeted by Christians also. e. retaliating Muslims who converted to Christianity

19 The role of the Church during & after the conflict a. Emergency assistance b. Urging the government to intervene c. Organizing peace conferences d. Training of trainers

20 Outcomes of the Church’s efforts 1. EECMY’s relationship with the EOC and mainstream Muslim leaders improved. 2. Government-Church relations have improved. 3. As a result of the successive peace conferences and trainings, tolerance and co-existence are taking roots. 4. Faith groups have developed a shared interest to cooperate in the area of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

21 Conclusions  The Church deliberately avoided to capitalize on its loss. It presented itself as a mediator  Its holistic interventions positioned it to have a leverage that would be impossible given the numerical disadvantage  It is premature to say that the approach the church used can be modeled and replicated  Bringing fundamental elements of the Islamic sects on board remains the big task.

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