May 22, 2007

A Lesson From the Russian Orthodox Christians፡ ‹‹ጠቢብ ከሌላው ስሕተት ይማራል ሞኝ ግን ከራሱም አይማርም››

The Russian Orthodox Church has finally succeeded in healing an eight decades schism in one Church. This is no accidental happening rather a devoted and matured handling of the case on both parties. During the time when Christianity in general and Orthodoxy in particular are under fire from different corners, Russian unity, although we know we are different in dogmatic matters, has profound importance for Christendom. As history is recording and we are witnessing, merciless fanatic Islam is in rise, and traditional Churches like the Roman Catholics are under severe proselytism in traditionally Catholic regions such as Latin America. Again, although Roman Catholics have severely persecuted our mother Church, we wish their strength and powerful existence in the world. Catholics will hopefully be further strengthened under the leadership of Pope Benedict the 16th. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church leaders and followers can draw a great lesson from these two Churches. The only way of standing against Islam fanaticism and pentecostal proselytism is through UNITY. It is time to think beyond tribal fanaticism and ethnic domination. Whether we are from Gonder or Tigray, our supremacy will never rescue our Mother Church from Islamic attacks, unless there is a united Orthodox stand in these matters. Should we wait 80 years to unite our fathers and their administrations so that Our Church can develop and prosper? Isn't the Russian example a good lesson? ‹‹ጠቢብ ከሌላው ስሕተት ይማራል ሞኝ ግን ከራሱም አይማርም›› እንዳይሆን፡፡
ቸር ወሬ ያሰማን፡፡ አሜን፡፡

May 21, 2007

Russian Orthodox Church Reunites, Ending 80-year split

MOSCOW (AFP) - The domestic and exiled branches of the Russian Orthodox Church reunited in a ceremony here Thursday in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, ending an 80-year split over communism.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, and the leader of the church's branch in exile, Metropolitan Lavr, signed the historic reunification agreement during an elaborate ceremony at Moscow's largest cathedral.
"By this Act, canonical communion within the Local Russian Orthodox Church is hereby restored," the act read, according to a transcript published on the web site of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Dozens of bearded priests flanked Alexy II, dressed in flowing green robes, while he and the blue-clad Lavr signed the act and embraced.
Putin then stepped forward to accept Alexy's congratulations for his "service to the faith and country."
The Russian leader, a former KGB officer who has since publicly embraced Christianity, told the thousands gathered that the reunification was a moment of renaissance for the country.
"The rebirth of church unity today is the most important condition for restoring the lost unity of the entire Russian world," Putin said in remarks broadcast on state-run television.
At the culmination of the service, the once rival church leaders were due to take communion from the same chalice in a gesture to seal the spiritual reunification.
The agreement, which became possible following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, welcomes almost half a million believers back into the Moscow-led fold and ends decades of recriminations over collaboration with the Bolshevik regime.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was formed by clergy who fled the atheist Bolshevik Revolution and split with the Moscow patriarchate after its 1927 declaration of submission to the Soviet authorities.
At the time the atheist Bolshevik regime was demolishing hundreds of churches, persecuting believers and arresting priests.
After decades of acrimony, contacts between the churches were officially renewed in 2003, with the two agreeing to call the 1927 declaration "a tragic compromise."
The reunification is an important symbolic victory for Putin, who regards the Orthodox Church as a key pillar of post-Soviet Russian society and has prioritized the promotion of Russian culture abroad.
He met Lavr in New York in 2003 in a bid to convince the exiled church to return to the fold.
The deal was sealed last year when 150 delegates from North and South America, Australia, Europe and ex-Soviet republics voted in favour at the conference in San Francisco.
However, some elements of the emigre clergy remain against the move, suspecting some Orthodox priests who served during the Soviet regime of collaborating with the KGB secret service.
In Moscow the merger was welcomed as a historic reunion, with a long line of faithful queuing outside Christ the Saviour cathedral in the rain at dawn to celebrate.
The imposing marble church was blown up by Stalin, then was rebuilt in the late 1990s as a symbol of the rebirth of Orthodoxy in Russia.
"We must all rejoice in this reunification, because the Orthodox people must be together," said Svetlana Novolodskaya, a 47-year-old nursery teacher, echoing the words of Alexy II.
"Joy fills our hearts," the patriarch said during the ceremony. "Historical events have occurred which we have waited for for many years. The unity of the Russian church has been re-established."

May 13, 2007

Ethiopians Fear for Their Interfaith Oasis: Cherished Interweaving Of Christians, Muslims Shows Signs of Fraying

By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 13, 2007;
DESE, Ethiopia -- Rumors were spreading up and down the narrow streets here, in front of the Noah pharmacy and Millennium Cafe, through the rectangular mosques and domed Orthodox churches of this northern Ethiopian city.
Muslims were said to be training to attack Christians. Christians were said to be stockpiling weapons for an assault on Muslims. Fears of an all-out religious melee became so rampant last year that the archbishop of the Orthodox Christian church sent spies to a mosque thought to be harboring Islamic fighters.
They were saying through the loudspeakers that 'the soldiers of Allah are brave' and telling Muslims to take action," the archbishop, Abba Athanasius, said recently. But then something unusual happened across the rolling green mountains in this part of Africa so defined by its volatility: nothing.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, concern about Islamic extremism has been rising across the Horn of Africa, and notably in Ethiopia, a country where Orthodox Christianity is often associated with national identity but whose population is nearly half Muslim, according to Ethiopian demographers and U.S. officials.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi cited radicalism within an Islamic movement that had taken power in neighboring Somalia, and its potential to spread across the border, as the main reason Ethiopia invaded that country in December.
Just two months earlier, an incident near the southern Ethiopian town of Jima underlined those fears. Though the motive remains a matter of debate, several days of violence between Muslims and Christians swept through the area, ending with 19 people killed and five churches and 600 houses burned, according to a government report.
Police eventually contained the violence, but the gruesome aftermath of a massacre of several worshipers in a church was captured on videotape by an evangelical Christian relief group investigating the situation. Soon, bootlegged copies -- including an edited version superimposed with such phrases as "Look at what they are doing to us" -- began showing up in markets across the country, including more than 300 miles away in Dese, where vendors began selling them alongside Britney Spears videos.
The rumors followed: The next religious battleground would be Dese, a long, narrow city of a thousand rusted roofs situated in a crevice in the grassy Tossa mountains.
In many ways, Dese is a hodgepodge of a place, where streets are framed by arched doorways built by Arab traders, striped awnings hung by Italian occupiers, and boxy lacquered mini-malls with cafes where large-screen TVs are tuned to al-Jazeera and Randy Travis songs occasionally drift out of open doors.
Above all, though, Dese is a symbol of Ethiopia's peaceful religious intermingling, a characteristic that is found to varying degrees across a country where nationalism or ethnicity or even devotion to soccer tends to trump religious fervor.
For centuries, Muslims and Christians here have lived in the same neighborhoods, celebrated each other's holidays, intermarried and blended religions with indigenous beliefs. Relationships are cemented through such Ethiopian institutions as the idir -- groups of neighbors, often religiously mixed, that raise money to pay for funerals.
In Dese, it is easy to find someone like Zinet Hassen, a Muslim woman wearing a long, black burqa who said, nonchalantly: "My uncle converted to Christianity but there was no stigma."
It is a kind of coexistence that has endured despite the fact that Orthodox Christians have historically had the upper hand in Ethiopia, politically and economically. In the 1880s, for instance, Muslims in Dese were forced to convert to Christianity, an edict the emperor issued as a means of consolidating power.
Under the socialist Dergue government of the 1970s and '80s, religious expression was discouraged, and it became difficult to acquire land to build churches and mosques. The situation changed dramatically when Meles took power in 1991 and lifted those sorts of restrictions.
Since then, mosques have been springing up across the country, many funded by Saudi or Yemeni financiers, along with a kind of competition with the Orthodox church, and to some extent, evangelical Christian churches, which receive funding from U.S. religious groups.
In Dese, four new mosques have been built in recent years, and more are under construction. Orthodox Christians have kept pace with five new churches since 1993. "We have plans to do more," the archbishop said. "We've now applied to build six more churches in Dese in every direction."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the competition has been heightened as a strain of more fundamentalist Islam has woven through Ethiopian society and, in Dese, taken hold in some mosques. One mosque in the city now barricades the area at prayer time. Some young men have begun growing their beards long, and more young women are wearing burqas, sights that were once rare.
Imam Omar Adam, for instance, complained that a man was ridiculed by some Muslims for worshiping trees, which is forbidden by Islam.
Even some idirs have separated along religious lines. And here and there, friendships have fallen apart.
Helen Alebachew, a Christian, said she and a Muslim woman grew up playing at each other's houses but hardly even look at each other anymore.
"Out of the blue, suddenly she joins this group of extremists," said Alebachew, 19, using a label Christians here often apply to more devout Muslims. "Even in school she stopped saying hi."
Given these tensions, some Muslim leaders in Dese say they have been accused of encouraging radicalism, a claim they tend to dismiss as Christian propaganda.
"Me, I'm not fundamentalist," said Ahmed Mousa, who runs the 80-year-old Showber Islamic school in Dese, where children are still taught with the help of whips. "I'm Ethiopian."
But he acknowledged a shift, particularly among young Muslims, which he and other leaders described not as fundamentalism but as a desire to become more devoted and, perhaps, to recover a religion their parents lost.
"They are now detaching themselves from the old culture," Mousa said. "The mixed culture is degenerating."
And so when the violence erupted in Jima last October, the news arrived in Dese amid a changing atmosphere.
With rumors swirling, the mayor -- whose first name, Jemal, is Muslim and last name, Kassahun, is Christian -- called a meeting of the city's religious leaders, including a Muslim sheik who has a Christian uncle, and a Christian pastor who has a Muslim grandfather.
"There were these confused people, Christian-to-Muslim converts, who tried to instigate people," the sheik, Hadji Mustafa Mohammed, said about the rumormongers. "But we took measures and brought it to a halt."
The leaders agreed that the violence in Jima must have been the fault of outsiders, or motivated by an Ethiopian political group trying to use religion to destabilize the area, which a government investigation also concluded.
The reaction has been similar elsewhere in Ethiopia, where the notion that the violence could have been instigated by Ethiopian Muslims and Christians has remained somehow unthinkable.
"When I first saw the tape, I couldn't finish it," said Aissetu Barry, a Christian and director of the Interfaith Peace-Building Initiative in Addis Ababa, referring to the scenes of carnage on the Jima video.
"I thought it must be external people, because there is no way we could have done this to ourselves. I saw the tape with a Muslim friend, and she cried, too," Barry said.
As they tried to understand what had happened, people in Dese considered their own families, friendships and neighborhoods.
"We Christians and Muslims have been together in good times and bad times," said Endris Ahmed of the local Islamic Affairs Council. "We decided that this is not going to be spoiled."
The tensions subsided, and life went on in Dese, where the tinny, amplified Muslim calls to prayer and rhythmic readings from the Orthodox Bible float across each dawn and dusk.
One recent evening, Nurye Seid commented that the speakers seemed to have become louder lately, a sign, he figured, of the kind of low-level religious competition that he is beginning to feel within his own family.
The high school geography teacher, a Muslim, married a Christian woman in a civil ceremony last year, and now they have a son nearly a year old.
So far, however, they have been unable to decide whether to raise him as a Muslim or Christian. In fact, they have not even given the child a name.
Seid's parents are hoping for Abubakr. His wife's parents are pulling for Abel.
For the time being, though, they are calling the child Abush, which, roughly translated, means baby.
"We have arguments sometimes," said Seid, adding that neither he nor his wife is particularly religious. "I think different cultures are more difficult to resolve, but this religious issue can be solved through discussions."

May 8, 2007

"Eritrea elects new Orthodox Church head"

(Reuters, April 25, 2007)
Asmara, Eritrea - Eritrea's Orthodox Church has named a new head but a Christian group condemned the move on Wednesday as a sign of growing state interference in church affairs in the Red Sea state.
Abune Dioskoros was named fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, replacing former head Abune Antonios, according to a statement in a government-owned English newspaper.
It did not say why the old patriarch had been replaced.
British-based Christian group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said the appointment was illegal, and that Antonios had been placed under house arrest.
"A renegade bishop has been declared its new patriarch sixteen months after the ordained pontiff was illegally removed from office," the group said on its Web site www.csw.org.uk.
"This is yet another low in the sad litany of Eritrean government interference in church affairs," CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement.
"Such an unprecedented level of state interference in church affairs is wholly unacceptable in this day and age," he added.
CSW said Antonios was one of some 2,000 Christians detained without trial or charge in Eritrea.
Eritrea's population of under five million is split roughly equally between Muslims and Christians, the majority Orthodox.
Its government routinely denies such accusations of interference, but has been accused by human rights groups and the U.S. State Department of violating religious freedoms.

Christian Art From Ethiopia on Display in New York

Some of the oldest and most striking Christian art in existence is now on view in New York at the Museum of Biblical Art. Visitors to Angels of Light: Ethiopian Art from the Walters Art Museum said they were fascinated at its glimpse into a distinctive medieval Christian culture in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Ethiopian paintings, manuscripts and crosses on display at the Museum of Biblical Art are all on loan from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Gary Vican, director of the Walters, visited New York for the opening of the exhibit, and said the works are as significant as more familiar early Christian art from Byzantium, Italy and Northern Europe.

"What makes this different from those is it's virtually unknown,” he said. “And it's not unknown because it's lesser. It's unknown simply because it was from a faraway place and it tended to stay in that faraway place."
Westerners and Africans alike may assume that missionaries brought Christianity to Africa. Vican said that’s true, but they came from the Middle East, not Europe. And they were in Africa long before the 19th century.
"The missionaries we're talking about were in the fourth century,” he said. “So, when Constantine was still bowing down to Jupiter up there in Rome, here in the heart of the Horn of Africa, people were practicing Christianity. And probably most people don't know, and would in fact be very surprised to learn, that the first empire to put the cross on their coins was Ethiopia.”
Vican says vibrant colors and simple design are hallmarks of Ethiopian Christian painting. "The other thing that's very striking about Ethiopian icons is the eyes,” he said. “They're huge, and the pupils are black and round. So, there's a kind of penetrating quality that's without parallel. There's nothing exactly like that."
The crosses of Ethiopia also are unlike those of other Christian cultures, with lace-like loops and swirls reminiscent of Islamic art. But the precise influences have not yet been traced out, Vican said, because the scholarly study of Ethiopian Christian art began only recently.
"The first Ethiopian exhibition of any dimension took place at my museum, I'm very proud to say, in 1993,” he said. “Can you imagine that? And these things have been around for centuries. So, it's opening a whole new chapter, a whole new book, in the history of medieval culture. And what is so amazing about Ethiopia is it is a living tradition. Right now in Ethiopia people are still doing manuscripts on vellum. No place else in the Christian world is this still practiced."

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የአቡነ ጳውሎስ "ሐውልተ ስምዕ"

ነጻ ፓትርያርክ ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ ማንን ይመርጡ ነበር? እንበልና ሁሉም ነገር ሥርዓቱን ጠብቆ የተከናወነ የእጩዎች ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ፣ አሁን የምናነሣቸው ጉድለቶች ባይኖሩ ኖሮ፣ 6ኛው ፓትርያርክ እንዲሆን የምትመርጡት ማንን ነበር? (ማሳሰቢያ፦ አሁን ያለው ክፍፍል እና የመንግሥት ተጽዕኖ ባይኖር ኖሮ ተብሎ የሚመለስ ጥያቄ ነው። የምን “ባይኖር ኖሮ ነው” የሚል አስተያየት ካለዎትም እናከብራለን።)