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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Eunhye CHANG, Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology

Over the centuries, being closely tied to the state, the Orthodox Church has had a dominant influence over every sphere of Ethiopian society by setting “the cultural delimiters, legislating norms, and defining national identity” (Eshete 2009, 310). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s interaction with western Christianity began from the sixteenth century, particularly through Jesuit missions. Without knowing the history and the spiritual heritage of Ethiopia, Portuguese missionaries sought to impose Catholicism, authorized by a decree officially passed by Ethiopian Emperor Susenyos in 1622. This provoked fierce opposition from Ethiopian monks, ultimately leading to a widespread civil war. This resulted in the emperor’s abdication and the Jesuits’ expulsion from Ethiopia (Tibebe Eshete 2009, 25). Due to the conflict that resulted from the Orthodox encounter with the Catholic missions in the 16th Century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been reluctant to interact with the western forms of Christianity. It is assumed that the major issues of the conflict are related to keeping Ethiopian Orthodox identity from the western Christianity. Catholic and Protestant Christians were perceived as “foreign, unfamiliar, and heretical” religion (Tibebe Eshete 2009, 309). Nowadays, it is reported that some interactions between western Christianity and the global Orthodox churches including the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This panel will provide 1) the reason why the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was reluctant to interact with western forms of Christianity; 2) what kind of interaction the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is making with western Christianity nowadays. In order to find these answers, it will raise the subsequent research questions under #1 as follows: 1-1) What are the major issues of the conflict between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and western Christianity that was brought into the country by Catholic missions and Protestant missions. 1-2) What is the perception of Orthodox Christians toward Protestant Christianity and Protestant Christians? Regarding the research methodology, it will review the major issues of the conflict and the current interaction between the Orthodox and western Christianity based on the literature related to history, theology, missiology, and anthropology. The research will employ the qualitative research based on interviews to find out how Ethiopian Orthodox Christians perceive western Christianity, especially, Protestant Christianity.