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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ASEBE Amenu Tufa, Wollega University, Ethiopia

Interreligious interaction is a dynamic and contentious issue of Ethiopia’s multi-religious setting. This study intended to investigate the roots of peaceful interreligious interactions and influencing factors in Jimma Zone, South Western Ethiopia, widely perceived as an area of interreligious tensions. The study was designed to answer how people with multiple religions have peacefully coexisted for centuries. Despite religion being a topical issue across the globe, there are hardly any contemporary academic works addressing the dynamism of interreligious relations and the reasons behind deeply rooted peaceful coexistence in a religiously diverse setting. Some of the previous studies focused exclusively on religious overtones. Recognizing the fact that interreligious relations are not created from a vacuum, the influence and interactions of social and cultural networks were underemphasized in the previous literature. This particular study was informed by the theory of functionalism and multiculturalism, which have been developed to explore social cement in a divided society along religious lines. The study employed a mixed research approach, which foothold in pragmatism or methodological pluralism. It was a cross-sectional study employing survey, in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and observation. To obtain the required information for the study, 384 residents participated in the survey along with 25 in-depth and 12 key informant interviews. The data collected from the field using multiple methods were analyzed using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis to arrive at comprehensive conclusions. The study has found that socio-cultural factors strongly contribute to peaceful interreligious encounters. The contribution of indigenous socio-economic institutions such as idder, iqub, and dabo were positive in binding Muslims and Christians together. Uniquely, attachments and people belonging to neighborhoods connect them irrespective of religious differences. Evidently, the tradition of drinking coffee together among neighbors was an indication of the widespread peaceful encounters between Muslims and Christians in the study localities. In addition, religious capitals such as religious principles and doctrines dictate peaceful interreligious coexistence. Recently, these deep-rooted peaceful encounters were under pressure due to changes in economic and political contexts rather than local level interactions. Overall, these indigenous neighborhood networks need to be promoted and preserved to sustain a socially integrated society. There is a need to make use of social and religious capitals to promote trusting, interreligious understanding and dialogue at the local levels.