Tag Archives: Habtom Yohannes

Ethnicity Tears the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church Apart
Prime Minister Ahmed forced to talk to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church

by Habtom Yohannes | ελληνικά | Русский

What initially seemed an internal conflict between the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EtOTC) and an Oromo breakaway synod of 28 bishops, has developed into an open clash between the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the EtOTC. The current struggle is actually a scramble over who has ownership of the nation: the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church or the Ethiopian nation-state? And who owns “the church”: the Amhara, the Tegaru, or the Oromo, or the three of them equally? And what is the language of the church: “Ge’ez, Amharinya, Tigrinya, or Afaan-Oromo? Are we going to have four Orthodox Tewahdo Churches in the Horn of Africa: 1) Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, 2)Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church, 3) Oromia Orthodox Tewahdo Church, and 4) Amhara-Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church?

Despite his open warnings to his cabinet members not to interfere in the current internal crisis within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some ten days ago, a concerted campaign by the Ethiopian synod at home and abroad has forced the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to invite representatives of the synod to his office. Time will tell whether Ahmed will convince the synod to cancel the nationwide demonstration planned for next Sunday. The synod will put as a condition that the government recognize their synod as the only legitimate synod for the whole Ethiopian church. Accepting that condition openly will bring him in direct conflict with the breakaway synods in Oromia and Tigray. Abiy Ahmed is an active member of the Full-Gospel Pentecostal group with “prosperity church” inclinations. His father is an Oromo-Muslim and his mother an Amhara-Orthodox Tewahdo. Together with his wife, born to an Amhara-Tewahdo parents, they have three girls. His power base is Oromo. So also in this discussion the breakaway Oromo bishops will be invisibly present in the meeting with the Ethiopian Holy Synod. The Holy Synod seems also to have booked a legal success in blocking the breakaway synod from using any church properties of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church. However, passing a verdict is totally different from enforcing it in a country that is structured ethno-linguistically in eleven federal states with their own parliaments and special forces. 

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The Tigray Crisis and the Possibility of an Autocephalous Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church

by Habtom Yohannes | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

Tigray Orthodox Church
Debre Selam Kidist Selassie Church before and after the War

The ongoing war in Tigray, the cradle of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity, might lead into yet another split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EtOTC), this time into an Amhara-based Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church and a Tigray-based Orthodox Tewahdo Church, weakening further the second largest Orthodox Church after Russia and the largest church of the Oriental family. The first split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church took place in 1994, when the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (ErOTC) was granted autocephaly by the late Pope Shenouda III following Eritrean independence from Ethiopia on May 24, 1993 (Stéphan, Bonacci, & Persoon, 2014). If Tigray opts for secession from Ethiopia and establishes its own independent nation-state like the Eritreans, then Alexandria has no option but to grant Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church (TOTC) autocephaly. Both options, autocephaly or continuation as part of the Ethiopian Synod, entail immense challenges.

Ironically, the current Ethiopian crisis started to surface in April 2018, when Abiy Ahmed Ali became Prime Minister[1] of the second most populous African country after Nigeria. Immediately after Abiy Ahmed ascended to power, he released all political prisoners and granted amnesty to all disgruntled exiles to come back to Ethiopia, including opposition groups and their media outlets who were stationed in Europe and the United States. Some of these Ethiopian opposition groups had their army in neighboring Eritrea. After Abiy Ahmed and the Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, signed a peace agreement in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on July 9, 2018, eight rebel groups returned to Ethiopia. Furthermore, Ahmed went all the way to the United States to convince Patriarch Abune Merkorios (an Amhara) and his synod to return home after 27 years in exile and reconcile with the Ethiopian Synod under Patriarch Abune Mathias. All these earned Abiy Ahmed the Nobel Peace Prize of 2019. However, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had dominated Ethiopia for the last 27 years, felt alienated by the velocity of transformations.  

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