Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Jürgen KLEIN, Institute for Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies, Church University of Wuppertal

In 1969, about ten years after its foundation as a national church (1959), the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) started to engage in Christian-Muslim Relations (CMR). Dr. Gunnar Hasselblatt and Ato Shamsudin Abdo were among the first pioneers who tried to combine the outreach to Muslims with a better understanding of Ethiopian Islam. Over decades, the concept and activities of the Program for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA) helped to clarify the combination of faithful witness and constructive engagement with Muslims. However, after many workshops, a Training of Trainers program, and other efforts, member were still asking, “Why relations, when we directly can bring them to Christ?” The tendency to see relations only as a tool for mission activities remained strong. Since 2003 the Degree Program in Christian-Muslim Relations at the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS), and since 2010 the new established CMR-Program at the EECMY Central Office both tried to strengthen the aspect of peaceful relations as a goal in itself. The research is based on the analysis of the archive documents of the EECMY (Central Office and MYS), and on the review and evaluation of both CMR Programs at the MYS and at the Central Office until 2015. The findings include that an increase in the understanding of one’s and the others’ religion, but moreover an understanding of the meaning of interreligious relations help to improve the relations. The study further shows the difficulties in ecumenical (intra-religious) cooperation in CMR, and the institutional development of programs as factors that either weaken or strengthen CMR in Ethiopia. It argues that these dimensions have a connection to global discourses on CMR.