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 1937, activities of the resistance movement in Addis Ababa led to a tragic and horrific climax, the massacres on Yäkatit 12 (19 February 1937) and afterwards. The German Hermannsburg Mission (GHM), which started mission work in Ethiopia at the end of 1927, like other mission organisations got directly and indirectly involved in the resistance against the Italian fascist rule. According to Ian Campbell in his book “The Plot to Kill Graziani” (2010), preparations for the assassination attempt were partly planned on the compound of the GHM. One important co-worker of the GHM, the teacher and evangelist Sǝb’hatu Tǝrunäh, arranged some of these meetings. Missionary Rev. Hinrich Rathje has been accused of having known about the plans. Both were taken to prison separately. Rev. Hermann Bahlburg, Head of the GHM in Ethiopia, had to navigate through different interest groups during difficult times. The presentation sheds some fresh light on what happened during those days around Yäkatit 12. Based on the analysis of documents found at the Political Archive of the German Foreign Ministry, the Archive of the Ev.-Lutheran Mission in Hermannsburg, private archives and other documents, it asks for a reconstruction of history. The main aim, however, is to highlight how both Ethiopian Christians (Orthodox and Protestant) and German and other missionaries were involved in passive and active resistance. The interconnectedness has global dimensions and lasts until now, as relatives of Sǝb’hatu Tǝrunäh and Hermann Bahlburg, being one example, share memories and relations across the two countries, and beyond Yäkatit 12.