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, Protestant University of Wuppertal / Institute for Intercultural und Interreligious Studies, Germany

Paper presenters:

EBRAHIM Damtew Alyou; MISGANAW Tadesse; Jürgen KLEIN; ASEBE Amenu Tufa; MOHAMMED Jemal Ahmed

The panel is going to deliberate on various aspects of Christian-Muslim or Muslim-Christian Relations in Ethiopia, including historical, sociological, legal, literary, institutional and other aspects. It covers historical and contemporary aspects including relations between the state and religions, intrareligious relations within Islam and Christianity, and forms of radicalisation and deradicalisation, including potentials for conflict management and conflict prevention of both religions as well as of interreligious initiatives. It deals critically with the motion of Ethiopian tolerance and looks into forms of social interaction as a key approach in Interreligious Relations. Local, regional and national context studies are expected. It further is open to look into the wider region (Horn of Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Middle East and North Africa) and into continental developments of such forms and networks of the relations in view of radicalism and terrorism. It also reviews the influence of global forms of Muslim-Christian Relations. It concentrates on religious science, interreligious and theological studies, and religious and theological concepts of the relations between Christianity and Islam. It asks about the state of religious or theological studies in Ethiopia and in the wider continental and global situation with regard to such relations. It further invites and encourages a multi-disciplinary academic field approach in such studies.



EBRAHIM Damtew Alyou, University of Gondar, Ethiopia

The objective of the study is to investigate the intermarriage of Christian and Muslim cultures and religions which gave birth to a new identity that proved the source of belongingness and familyhood. Common practices among both Christians and Muslims have included saint venerations, baptism in holy water, commemoration of holy men, magical practices, exorcising of evils spirits, honoring the dead, and praying at the ‘Sacred Tree’. Moreover both communities celebrate annual events such as Ginbot lideta and participate in fasts dictacted by religious rules. They also share cultures that have been conventionally specific to one of the religions. For instance, Yetut lij (breast son or daughter), sometimes called Abe liji, is traditionally practiced only among Christians in other part of Ethiopia, yet has been practiced by Muslims for the purpose of sustaining friendships without blood ties and maintaining religious uniformity. Thus, such cultural and social innovations has had profound implications on the intercommunal relations that determine the relationship between Muslim and Christian neighbors.



MISGANAW Tadesse, PhD Candidate, University of the Western Cape, Department of History, Cape Town, South Africa

Wollo is a province in Ethiopia where Muslims and Christians live together peacefully. The religious demography of the province, which has almost equal number of Muslims and Christians living together intermingled made social interaction inevitable. As a result, the community has a unique history of tolerance, peaceful coexistenceand strong sense of togetherness. The people are intermixed and shared many customary, cultural and ritual practices. Among these customary/cultural practices, which are exercised among the Wolloyes regardless of their religion, is a prayer which issupplicated to a pregnant woman for her labor pains to be easy. Few days before the delivery of lady, a prayer which is referred to us “Fatima Qori”, is made for her in the name of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. Likewise, at birth the same pray is done in the name of St. Mary for the lady who is going to give birth to deliver safely. In such away, in Wollo, Christians participate in “Fatima Qori” and Muslims pray in the name of Mary. This is a living witness of togetherness and peaceful co-existence in the province. Thus, this paper examines this customary practice, the pray for a pregnant woman, which is made in the name of Fatima and St. Mary, and also other shared practices which resulted in peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians in southern part of Wollo, especially in the districts of Dessie Zuria, Qallu and Tehuledere. The method applied for this research is principally qualitative. Extensive reading of relevant literature is done. Moreover, observation of the above mentioned customary practices have been made in those selected districts. The researcher also conducted individual, and group, interviews. Finally, the researcher analyzed and interpreted the information collected.



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

In 2014, the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE, established in 2010), has published the first and second edition of its training manual የሰላም ዕሴት ግንባታ ማሰልጠኛ መጽሐፍ [Training Book for Building the Value of Peace]. After the introduction, the Amharic book is divided into five chapters, dealing with the religions’ common values and their significance (1), constitutional rights and freedoms in view of religion (2), religion and development (3), peace (4), and togetherness according to the holy scriptures (5), followed by a bibliography. After explanations of concepts within the topics of each chapter, questions are provided for discussions. What are the main theological and socio-cultural arguments that build the value of peace in Ethiopia? How much has the intention of keeping the balance of views from both main religions been kept by the Christian and Muslim experts and scholars? One of the key concepts is the notion of a culture of peaceful coexistence in social relations that lies at the bottom probably not only of the Ethiopian society. The strengthening of this culture against the increase of extremism is the main purpose of the book and the IRCE, but it is also a key element in the strategy of the Ethiopian government in countering extremist violence. In view of different Inter-Religious Councils in Africa and beyond, does the Ethiopian case bring a unique contribution to global concepts? A critical in-depth analysis of the book and its contents, including theological positions (with the use of quotations from the holy scriptures) and socio-religious practices, placed in a contextual setting in which the book has been published led to some preliminary findings. The books achievement of identifying interreligious peacebuilding with the intention of strengthening the Ethiopian way of peaceful coexistence, is encouraging. The book set out from extremism as the root cause for conflicts. However, the degree of dealing with the root causes of conflict factors that stem from political, economic, juridical, ethnic or other classical factors from an interreligious point of view, however, is limited. The presentations tries to explain why.



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.



MOHAMMED Jemal Ahmed, Izmir Katip Celebi University, Izmir Turkey, PhD student

With about billion users, more topics are being discussed and addressed on social media platforms today. Religion is certainly one of the themes. From time to time, the amount of online based social media has increased greatly, and the forms of internet usage have diversified seemingly without end. Social media apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, Twitter and blogs are unfortunately used as a platform for misinformation, stereotyping and even recruitment by violent extremists. Currently, these social media polemics have become great challenges of coexistence and religious tolerance in many countries. Ethiopia is also one of the victims of this phenomenon. Disparic communities of Ethiopians who resides in Europe, USA and Middle East have been playing central roles in eroding the existing religions tolerance and accommodations in Ethiopia. These diaspora have easy access to free Wi-Fi internet and mobile technologies. They also have better awareness of how to use social media. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Facebook and Whatsapp groups who have been engaging in violent religious dialogues. These violent dialogues both occur among people of the same faith and between those of two different faiths. Therefore, the main objective of this paper is to assess the impact of the Web and mobile technology-based inter and intra-religious polemics of Ethiopian diaspora on the country’s religious tolerance and coexistence, and to suggest some possible solutions to overcome these challenges by legal frames. This paper has deployed cutting-edge, internet-based research methods and reasonable tests of validity and reliability.



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.