The world is disgusted at the malevolent indifference of Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian government to the starvation and torment constantly applied to the innocent Tigray population. The world must understand the origin of a twisted blasphemous manifest destiny of Amharic domination that began with the death of Yohannes IV the last Tigray Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889.
Similar to Europe there was a strong imperial character to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which existed with the monarchy. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church developed quite independently of the Roman Catholic Church and also somewhat isolated from the Eastern Orthodoxy as well with its own special characteristics including the concept of Jesus Christ incarnation of human and God being indivisible. This concept is called Tewahedo and often the Ethiopian Orthodox Church uses this name in short. A very important concept for the clergy was Donatism which stated that priests had to be perfect examples of the followers of Christ otherwise they could not carry out their sacred functions of the Eucharist, Blessings, and Forgiveness, and Counsel to the Emperor. This concept which is not seen in the Western Church empowers Tewahedo to have tremendous influence over the secular government. They can forgive any sin and counsel any heinous act.
The Byzantine founder, Constantine, greatly admired by Tewahedo followers believed that although Jesus teaches peace and love the imperfect soul of man will inevitably bring war. Whenever possible the concept of akrievia (Greek: ακριβεια)which is to strictly follow the peaceful path must be sought. However in a fallen world where human weakness has brought chaos Economia(Greek: οἰκονομία, oikonomia)is allowed to temporarily break God’s commandments. The end will justify the means. Tewahedo clergy leadership has the power to give temporary dispensation for committing of even mortal sins to facilitate Amharic destiny.
Although previous Tigray rulers including Ras Alula sought some expansion from Tigray into Eritrea and Johannes temporarily captured Gondar it was after the death of Yohannes IV when Menelik II came into power that Amharic expansion began with the application of economia theological support for barbarism and cruelty. Killing, torture, theft of land, and enslavement were morally justified towards the Oromo, Southern People, and Muslims of the Western Ethiopia to achieve the goal of building the Amharic Empire. In the last decade of the 19th century, Amharic expansion violently captures the regions of the Oromo, Sidamo, and Somali lands tripling it’s territory and making a new capital, Addis Ababa, out of the former FinFinne.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church clergy and their Evangelical allies supporting Abiy Ahmed’s policy of no negotiation and deprivation of human needs to deal with the Tigray are blasphemous to Donatism a unique theological tenet of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The conduct, preaching, and speeches made to members of the United States Congress as well as the Ethiopian public that the Tigray need to be wiped out and no peace talks should be held is a severe violation of the Donatist principle espoused for hundreds of years.
Since early in its development, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has strongly held valid that the clergy must be a church of “saints not sinners”. Church leaders had to live their lives everyday following the Biblical teachings of love, charity, sacrifice, forgiveness, loving both neighbor and enemy, and avoiding hate and violence. Donatists opposed the idea of joining church and state as noted in the book of Samuel in the Old Testament because leaders of men tend to become corrupt and sinful. The Church had an imperial relationship to rulers but careful in how it advised. Similarly the Church had a long history of co-existence with differing faiths. Unfortunately as the Church moved somewhat to Amhara in last two centuries it did show some signs of Calvinist pre-selection where Cushitic Southern Ethiopians were not seen as equals allowing their enslavement. There are also some issues of Apostolic succession in the Amharic Synods of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as they cannot clearly trace to Saint Peter through the 5th century Syrian missionaries as do the Tigray. This is especially noted for Synods in the foreign countries which has lead to current divisions within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Abune Mathias, the recognized head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church by proper Apostolic succession, has been held in house arrest under Abiy Ahmed. He was prohibited from communication to the world until taped interviews where smuggled out of Ethiopia. He has decried the Tigray Genocide as unjustified and evil.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church origins begin in the 4th century CE when the Axumite King in what is now Tigray was converted from Judaism to Christianity by Frumentius a Syrian Christian monk who also followed Jewish Law. Frumentius and his brother Aedesius were shipwrecked and became prominent advisors to the Axum royal family leading to Ezana’s baptism. Judaism had come to Axum many centuries before following the visit of the Sabian Queen Sheba to Israel who subsequently bore the son of King Solomon. There is also the Biblical story of the Ethiopian enuch (royal official) who on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem met Saint Philip who explained that Jesus had come as prophesized in the Old Testament.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church developed with distinct theological differences from the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Syrian Christian missionaries who preserved many Jewish traditions such as kosher diet spread their message throughout what is now Northern Ethiopia. No contact occurred with the Roman Church for almost 800 years isolating it from that influence. While Church fathers from Northern Africa and Alexandria such as St. Augustine as well as those from the Byzantium had influence in the Ethiopian Church it still developed its own way. Sometimes the church is referred to as Tewahedo which refers to the concept that Jesus God and human parts are indivisibly mixed. Some of its most recognized saints are lesser known or not clearly recognized in the West. The story of the Axumite empire in the Negus became a part of their religious tradition.
However one of the most important differences and one that really characterized the Tewahedo Church is Donatism. Donatus Magnus was North African Bishop who believed that for clergy to have the power to lead their flock and celebrate the Eucharist they had to live perfect lives. Otherwise their prayers, sermons, blessings, granting of forgiveness, and preparation and celebration of the Eucharist would be rendered invalid. Whilst prominent church father, St. Augustine disagreed as did the Roman Church, this principle has remained a pillar of Tewahedo through today.
The public beating of a mother and child by police shows Addis Ababa once the shining city of divergence and enlightenment now has a very dark soul of malevolence and nihilism.
I cannot get a video posted today from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia out of my head. Two big Addis Ababa policemen find a small Tigray woman with her child of about 1 and 1/2 years on side walk street vending. Upon hearing her speak Tigrinya they viciously kick her feet out from under her and begin pummeling her head.
One has to understand that no Tigray would be out in the street of Addis Ababa where they are subject to such abuse or even disappearing without a trace in a detainment center where extrajudicial killings have happened according to prosecutors from Addis Ababa.
No doubt she was poor and needed money to feed her child. We don’t know the exact story of why she was there but losing her family to marauding death squads of Ethiopian or Eritrean soldiers, or starvation, or just being isolated because of the communication block could be one or all contributing to her desperate current plight.
There were many bystanders but not a single one defended her. Instead when they saw someone was filming the senseless brutality of police officers whose job is to protect the vulnerable they blocked the filming. What happened after that we do not know. Unfortunately though it is well known that for some time there has been no safe place for Tegaru in Addis Ababa.
If she goes to the Medhanialem Church near the wealthy social center of Addis in a neighborhood called Bole she would not find refuge now. Always in the past this Ethiopian Orthodox Church was a sanctuary for all Ethiopians where they could sleep, find water, clothes or other hand outs from fellow Christians. Today the Tegaru rightful head of this ancient denomination is under house arrest while Amhara replacements preach a false Gospel of death rather then life in those sacred abodes which once proclaimed the charity and brotherhood of Jesus Christ but now are replaced by hate even of a widowed mother and her small child.
Maybe it is time to return Addis Ababa to its original name Finfinne and to it’s original peaceful owners, the Oromo, who are known for creating Africa’s first democracy, Gadaa, before they were conquered and enslaved by Amhara expansion.
Religious leaders, Esaias, and Abiy Ahmed together created a cruel plan for genocide incorporating common Ethiopian Orthodox Church folklore and belief of the Tigray people. The human atrocities committed by Eritreans and Ethiopians on the people of Tigray were part of a deeper psychological warfare to encourage Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers to commit atrocity while creating fear and panic among the Tigray involving hyena and Christian resurrection.
The attempted complete conquest of Tigray involved devious input from Amhara religious leaders, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Recent revelation about how Eritrean dictator Esaias Afwerki was the mastermind while Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was the puppet on a string was revealed in Eritrea Hub. Esaias it is claimed is now directing all policy of Ethiopia towards Tigray as well as taking over intelligence functions and propaganda.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church which makes up 90% of Tigray places great importance on the promise of the resurrection of both the soul and the physical human body after death by their faith in Christ. The start of Christianity in Ethiopia began in what is now Tigray but only after centuries of being Jewish. As a result in Ethiopia the Orthodox Church uniquely follows many Jewish customs.
They believe that the dead must be buried in consecrated natural ground to allow it to return to dust. Remembering that Christ upon his resurrection showed Thomas his wound as told in the Gospel of John to prove his identity as well as the idea that the body is a holy creation of God there is a great fear among the common folk that disfigurement or dissacration of the body before or even after death will affect one’s resurrection. For example, in the hospital in Mekelle, many would refuse amputation even if it was necessary to safe life because they feared resurrection without a leg or arm.
The corruption of the body starting soon after death as well as the body being unclean makes it necessary to be interred quickly usually within a day or two after death. This is why you see, for example, the sense of urgency given by those recovering dead bodies from the Tekeze River in Western Tigray to bury them quickly.
Killing civilians or soldiers then burning them or leaving them unburied is done to convince the Tigrayans (Tegaru) that Ethiopia and her ally Eritrea have the unholy evil power to effect afterlife. This for what is commonly referred as the countryside people is quite terrifying. At the same time the Amhara and Eritreans are encouraged that they are killing a nonhuman entity.
The use of term hyena has two specific meanings when used in propaganda by Abiy Ahmed’s religious supporters. Many Orthodox believers see the world as having significant mystical components including evil and good magic as a part of their faith. The hyena is seen as a potentially supernatural being who can transform from beast to man and has evil magical powers called buda. Having lived in Amhara for almost two years some time ago, I witnessed how whenever a hyena was killed on the highway local people would often come to harvest its gallbladder which was is said to have magical powers.
The hyena is a powerful scavenger that finds it prey or carrion at night. The powerful jaws it possesses can easily crush bone so that it if finds a human corpse the whole body may be consumed without a trace. If the body is not placed in holy ground then folklore would say that resurrection may not occur. Hyenas can attack not only the body but the soul in Ethiopian folklore. Those attacked by hyena may require religious exorcism says local folklore.
In a recorded interchange between a captured Amhara soldier and the avenging Tegaru farmers in Hawzen in March of this year this exact fear was told to the farmers. The enemy soldier feared he would be executed and consumed by wild animals without burial. He requested at least to be killed by a church so he could be buried in one piece on consecrated ground. This also shows how the attacking Amhara where propagandized as well to see their enemy as unholy and evil. Ultimately the farmers did not kill the captured soldier but he was sent to a POW camp in Mekelle.
Referring to Tegaru as hyena is also dehumanizing them. Werehyena are hyenas that can camoflage themselves as man and carry out death and destruction. Convincing Amharas and others that Tegaru have an inherently evil nature that must be destroyed and can only be by death of the whole population. In other words they are giving an excuse for genocide. When they kill Tigray they are killing evil not men.
Is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now making deals with a Turkish anti-Christian cocaine dealer? Does the hypocrisy of Abiy Ahmed know no bounds?
Just this month a story published in the Nordic Monitor described that a jet owned by a close associate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was caught smuggling 1.3 tons of cocaine into Brazil. The jet was owned by a company owned by Şeyhmus Özkan, a known oil smuggler who enjoys political cover thanks to his close ties to the Erdoğan government. He is a vital supporter of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The article noted that the response of the Turkish government to this event “bears the hallmark of a coverup by Turkish authorities”. Is Abiy Ahmed planning to use Ethiopian jets the same way to help his economy?
Components of Turkish Airlines have filed bankruptcy in last year and have struggled to do well in the international COVID19 pandemic. Additionally although offering low fairs which are probably violating international regulations on national subsidy to capture markets the airline suffers from a poor reputation of customer service. Frequent comments such as “worst airline ever” appear on the well known rating website Skytrax.
Although Abiy Ahmed presents himself as devoted evangelical Christian who promotes tolerance of religious diversity that is not the case with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is coming under increasing international criticism for his suppression of Christianity in Turkey. Historically Istanbul once known as Constantinopol was known as the first nation to officially adopt Christianity by the Emperor Constantine. He is recognized and venerated by Ethiopian Orthodox followers as his mother, Helen, who is said to have found the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. This is in fact an important holiday in Ethiopia called Meskel which means cross in the ancient language of Ge’ez used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in its scripture. Why make deals with a man who mocks your own religion?
Whereas it was once commonplace for Orthodox Christianity and Islam to co-exist in Turkey that has changed under Erdoğan’s leadership. Christian churches are being converted to Mosques and Christians are frequently confronted by police and accused of treason. The celebration of Meskel as an open public celebration as done in Ethiopia is outlawed in Turkey.
Like ancient Israel Ethiopia will fall without cohesion of a strong pious leader endorsed by righteous religious authority. This long and widely held political religious viewpoint has been directly assimilated into support for Abiy Ahmed by his supporters. They prophesize his fall from power will bring an unholy chaos and downfall of the state.
The origin of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) traces it history first to Hebrew traditions historically brought to Ethiopia by the Queen of Sheba and her son Menelik I who was fathered by the Hebrew King Solomon. Subsequently Judaism as the state religion gave way to Christianity in the third century AD under King Ezana. The EOC retained many Jewish features such as the kosher diet in part because of the nine Syrian Jewish Christians who came to Ethiopia and brought Scripture in the Geez language. Tewahedo, the concept of Jesus being of one mixed substance indivisible one from the other, separates it from Western and Eastern European Christology. Many Ethiopians see the parallels in the story of the struggle of the Jewish state and that of Ethiopia. They see this struggle as being dependent on the pious observance of the Ethiopian people.
Early on the EOC differentiated itself from the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantium Church in the this concept of Tweahedo but also by accepting Donatism. In simple terms this meant that priest had to be absolutely holy and without corruption otherwise they are incapable of performing priestly duties including especially rituals of forgiveness and the eucharist. It also gave them a higher status in many ways to even the monarchy or political leaders. This lent and continues to lend authority to the words of clergy to the population.
They did however look to Emperor Constantine as a model of imperial orthodoxy. Similar to what happened in Europe during the middle ages a partnership developed between the EOC and the monarchy. The holy nature of the clergy gave them authority to proclaim Ethiopian monarchy as being chosen by divine will.
Strength through unity expands the empire and protects it
Initially the Ethiopian empire was born out of the Axumite Empire bordering the Red Sea and even some territory in Yemen consisting of the Semitic speaking peoples we know today as the Tigray and Amhara. Over the centuries holdings in Yemen were lost but the new Solomonic dynasty began to spread south and west. The Cushitic peoples of western, southern, and eastern Ethiopia were overcome and became subjects of the empire. However fierce rivalries grew within the empire leading to many episodes of betrayal, assassination, and wars. Additionally there were times when Muslims who make up at least a third and maybe 40% of the population fought the empire. Ethiopian Christians believe their “God derived” unity and tolerance towards Muslims who accepted subjugation preserved the Christian state.
This intertwining of destiny, religion, and the need to keep power created even academic misrepresentations of Ethiopian history propagated by the ruling Amhara monarchy. For example that the Oromo people were immigrants to the Ethiopia and that Muslims were meant to be graciously accepted as refugees from the pagan Saudi kingdom but not part of the Ethiopian manifest destiny. Cushitics were inferior and meant to be ruled by Amhara.
The prophetic chaos of the time of princes (without a king)
Fear of the danger of collapse of the empire from disunity happened during the period referred to as Zemene Mesafint in 1769 through 1865AD which is an analogy to the collapse of the 12 tribes of Israel in Jewish history which rendered them susceptible to invaders. Additionally the analogy goes further that this collapse was due to following away from God. Even though the Emperor Tewodros II lost to the British in war and committed suicide he is glorified as an example of strength in this unity.
Divisions develop in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Over the past century the EOC has developed significant divisions in its ranks. Over a half century beginning in the Caribbean Islands critics of the leadership of the Ethiopian Church began to develop. This was in part driven by the concept that Cushitic peoples of Ethiopia especially in the western and southern regions did not have the same citizenship status or rights as Northern Ethiopians. Amharic royalty had become the holders of power leading to the allowance of slavery and land acquisition of Cushitic’s. Many Oromos were characterized also as pagans for not joining the EOC. This facilitated their increased conversion to Islam and opened the way for the introduction of evangelical protestants to flourish.
Large numbers of diaspora came to the United States and Europe during the Derg regime Tigray Peoples Liberation Front conflict which followed the end of the monarchy. Opposition groups distrusted the appointments of the Patriarchs leading the EOC in Ethiopia as being too aligned with the Derg and subsequently the TPLF. Three groups of EOC churches developed, the unrecognized Holy Synod in exile, the neutral, and those loyal to the Patriarch over the past two decades.
Additionally, many Protestant converts, both in the diaspora and native Ethiopian population have now joined up with those in the Holy Synod in Exile fearing that a repeat Zemene Mesafintwill happen. Currently under order of the the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abune Mathias, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, has accused the government of wanting to destroy Tigray and been placed under house arrest.
Many Ethiopian Protestant converts and exiled EOC members as well as Amharic factions in Ethiopia see Abiy Ahmed as the continuation of the partnership of political religious alliance that has been the prophecy of success for Ethiopia. While others see this as just a pretense for the continuation of expansionist Amharic elitism camouflaged by religion.
The Christian Church wielding overpowering paternalism denying Christ’s followers the ability to freely make decisions denies the faith God has in human ability to find truth through faith. This goes beyond teaching their followers to make moral judgement. It demonstrates a condescending view of their flock as incapable of full development to make moral decisions as intended by God in their creation. A term for this was coined clerico-fascism referring to Mussolini support by the Catholic Church in the 1930s. The writers of the Constitution of the United States wisely foresaw this dilemma when a solid division between church and state was legislated. Yet this division is under attack and not only in the United States.
Now today while many Protestant and Jewish leaders are joining the call for protecting voting rights in the United States the Catholic leaders and especially the American Bishops are absolutely silent. Not a single word. Do they fear that a mob of peasants will endanger their political goals? In Ethiopia many clergy are calling for a Christian fatwa in a civil war between ethnic groups which they are saying allows who they see as the righteous to commit inhuman atrocities.
There are many times when I have looked with awe at the many things the Catholic Church does for the poor throughout the world. Helping school children to learn basic skills, giving orphans a chance to grow up, helping poor families in third world countries. Similarly I have traveled widely in Ethiopia and seen the Ethiopian Orthodox Church be a beacon of hope for poor souls starving, abandoned, or needing some social support. In earlier times and even today church grounds provided the only well for water for rural populations. Many school children learned to read Amharic because there was no public school system.
However, going back to the middle ages the church has always had a problem with wielding overbearing paternalism. Although it cared deeply for the people the leaders of the church had a prevailing attitude that their sheep were totally inept to make their own decisions. In World War II the Catholic Church forestalled American’s recognition of the dangers of the Nazi movement because it feared communism more. During the struggle for civil rights of minorities in the United States the argument that “now is not the time” was a common theme so counsel was given not to pursue “too aggressive measures to combat” prejudice and racism. In Ethiopia the Orthodox church saw Kushitic peoples as less human then the Semitic peoples of the north allowing slavery.
We remember when attempts were made to translate the Bible to the lingua franca, common language of the people, instead of Latin these were seen as evil heretical acts. The Word of God was for the clergy to give the people not for them to discover. Since the Middle Ages it has been well documented that the organized church has always struggled with what its role should be versus government. What should be the role of clergy to government leaders and what should be the role of clergy toward the public? Should they be advisors on general moral issues and abstain from specific political questions?
The Bible in the Book of Samuel warns the nature of man is contaminated when power is given. That society must always be on guard because power corrupts. The great German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his writing the Cost of Discipleship went so far as to say that Christians should avoid political office because it was inconsistent with being a good disciple of Christ.
The Catholic Church today in the United States has been diminished greatly and has hoped to invigorate itself by tying itself tightly to the cause of abortion. I respect their point of view that life begins at conception and also see it as a reasonable goal to eliminate abortion.
However, in his mandate for Christians to build the Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, on earth Jesus did not intend for Christians to be political zombies with no respect for their free will. The creation of man with free will is a key tenant to God’s purpose that man freely chooses to love God and follow Jesus teaching. That this devotion comes out of using all his gifts of the spirit including his intellect. Christ’s love leads and inspires the body not the paternal dictatorship of church leaders.
When Jesus was incarnated of two natures, one human and one divine, he was made by God with the idea that his humanness had the capability to reach a state that appreciated God’s grace. Man has this dual nature. Saint Paul said becoming a Christian involved man overcoming his beastly nature to find his connection with God. His creation by God made this possible even for the gentiles who had no history of knowing God there was an inherent chance. Some theologians have in fact called this the deification of humanity. When the Church shows no faith in human ability to follow God it is denying God’s intent in how man was created. God has faith in man because he created man in his image. The church should be a guide but like parents to a child eventually the child will grow up to make his own decisions. This facilitates how we can be true members of the Corpus Christi.
The methods and motivation of the Tigray Defense Force are analogous to the Biblical hero, Gideon, in the victory of the Midianites in ancient Israel. Gideon is a venerated saint in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with a connected legacy to the Tigray. They are using a method of strategic encirclement of intended targets and showing their tactical superiority in night attack followed by negotiation with local leaders to bring surrender leaving the local authorities in charge. In this way they have captured much equipment and prisoners but with minimal civilian casualties. Like the ancient Israelis they are making alliances to make their former potential adversaries see who is real enemy.
The Tigray people or Tegaru trace their heritage to the ancient Saba people who lived around the Red Sea who would give rise to the Semitic peoples including the Arabs and Israelis. Thousands of years ago the Saban Queen of Sheba bore a son from King Solomon of Israel who went on to form the Axumite Empire based in what is now the city of Axum in Northern Tigray. The early Tigrayans were followers of Judaism until they converted to Christianity under King Ezana. Their particular form of Christianity, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is similar to Eastern Orthodoxy and still follows many Jewish customs such as dietary restrictions. The story of Gideon who is recognized as a saint for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is found in Chapter 28 of the 1 Megabyan book of their Bible.
In the Old Testament following the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt there were many ups and downs in trying to become established in Israel. Early in their history they had strayed from following God and built an altar to the false god, Baal. As a result of this God had rendered them to be constantly besieged and attacked by the Midianites who would take their crops and occupied their land. The Midianites were relatives of the Israelis, in fact Moses wife Zipporah had come from this tribe, but over the years the Midianites never accepted the covenant the Israelis had made with God. The king of the Midianites rather than having his people worship God wanted the people to worship him in a cult. God sent a prophet named Gideon to help the Israelis find their way and punish the Midianites.
The Israelis where vastly outnumbered in the tens of thousands so Gideon had recruited more than 22,000 fighters for battle. However, God said they had to be righteous so he tested with with how they would drink water from a pond. Only 300 passed the test. In order for the Jews to win the battle they had to follow God’s instructions. Gideon’s army was well trained and disciplined. Using trumpets and torch proclaiming their righteousness they were victorious in a disciplined night attack against the Midianites.