By Gedda Komma
Tigray in general and Tigray Orthodox Christians, in particular, stand bitterly betrayed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church leaders in the country and in diaspora! For several reasons, from the beginning of the war of extermination on Tigray in Nov.2020 to this point in time, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church showed divided and poor posture with regard to its moral obligation. Its reactions were neither united nor something one can expect from any Church of such stature. The Church, apart from the Patriarch who has been practically muzzled and denied any access to media or his own agents, should be told the bitter truth. Overall, the Church leaders in the country and in the diaspora were infatuated in support of the war on Tigray by combined forces of Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces. To many people, Orthodox Tigrayans or others, it was shocking to see religious leaders endorsing war, talking so cheap, publicly harassing their own Patriarch on mere account of being from Tigray and because he called for stopping of war and starting dialogue by all actors to sort out their differences. Some notable Orthodox leaders in various regions such as in Addis Abeba, in diaspora, and those appointed in lucrative high offices of the government such as Mr. Daniel Kibret have been leading and endorsing the genocidal effort of Eritrean President Isayas and Abiy on Tigray. Not only were they supporting the war, blockade, and man-made famine, as a block they remained intentionally silent and slow to react to massacres in various holy places in Tigray like in Axum, Mahbere Diego, and Giitelo in Gulomakada and so many places. Those the so-called ‘notables’, with gigantic ecclesiastical titles of the Church, have become saloon creatures of Mr. Abiy. In fact, when it is about Sudan or Egypt, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido leaders make a big show in defense of ‘sovereignty. When the Eritrean mercenary army did mass carnage in front of Axum Tsion, the holy center of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, their low-key reaction was a loud statement about the Church’s situation. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is the shadow of its ideal self and its moral and institutional coherence is finished. It can no more recover and become a meaningful moral leader, at least in anything Tigrayan!
Tigray has been the foundational place of Christianity in Ethiopia. Tigray nursed both Christian and Islamic faiths and first ushered them into Ethiopia putting Ethiopia on the world map through this unique history. Therefore, it is the land of magnanimity and not only geographically beautiful mountains but Tigray stands as a historical and moral highland in Ethiopia. All, literally all of the Ethiopian historical weights originated in Tigray. Tigray offered Ethiopia, history, stamina, and Christianity-laden tradition and enviable place in the history of Islam as the first place of refuge when the first followers of the Prophet were under persecution in their own land. It is the land of covenants and trust! So, it is not acceptable by any standards that the hypocritical ‘religious’ leaders of any institution in Ethiopia attempt to sanction, condemn, excommunicate, or even claim to represent Tigray religious institutions. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido or any other religious institution must leave Tigrayan religious followers to manage their affairs! The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Synod has long lost its moral authority of Tigray so it should repent and leave Tigran Orthodox Tewahido Church alone. The Tigray Orthodox Church and its faithful can decide for themselves. The Church in Tigray precedes the so-called Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Chruch and the bishops and mouthpieces everywhere must mind their business.
Anyway, tough times test people, individuals, and institutions at every level, as it has been in human history. The Orthodox Tewahido Church of Ethiopia, like almost all religious institutions in Ethiopia, has morally failed both God and the people of Ethiopia in general. For Tigray people, all is clear. Ethiopian Orthodox leaders never represented nor will represent Tigray Orthodox faithful in any way. Look, just recently the Ethiopian Orthodox Bishops were lobbying American and other western agencies to support Abiy in the war and exert unfair pressure on Tigray. They have thrown their religious and moral responsivity into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, their role was to be prophetic – to see the signs of the times, to liberate the oppressed and weak, to feed the hungry, protect children and women from any unfair situation but they used their Church clothes to promote Amhara nationalism and unitary Ethiopia at the expense justice and human dignity of Tigrayan population suffering under Eritrean, Ethiopian and Amhara deceitful narratives and occupation. On their part, it is either lack of understanding of what it means to be a religious leader or abandoning their role and freely being used by politicians such as Abiy for small praise, photo show, and cash envelopes – of course on top of hatred for Tigrayans. Some of them even talk ‘junta’ and ‘to destroy Ethiopia’ etc mid their sermons. Some such as Mr. Daniel Kibret publicly ostracize and dehumanize Tigrayans and emphatically campaign to destroy them (Tigrayans) not only from the earth but from history so that the next generation may not know about them. He proudly, as an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido public figure, said they (Ethiopians/Amhara) have to replace the concept of Satan with the imagery of them (Tigrayans). Orthodox Church of Ethiopia has continued its moral downward move as an institution because its leaders and various related people’s platforms have become the embodiment of hatred of anything Tigray.
Every October, the Church organizes a Synod assembly or meeting to discuss major issues and put action directions. This year’s Synod assembly is particularly faced with a major moral test, though the Church has been consistently failing so far. Tigray issues are on the agenda, we are told.
In protest to what the Amhara-dominated Orthodox was doing in support of genocide on Tigray by Abiy, Esayas, and Amhara government, the Tigray Orthodox Tewahido Church leaders and faithful in various parts of the world have organized themselves and are making their own steps towards invigorating ‘Tigrayan Orthodox Tewahido Church. This move, it seems has angered some Amhara bishops, who constitute the majority in the synod. Therefore, it seems they want this year’s October assembly to suspend the priesthood of Tigrayan ordained members and excommunicate all the Tigrayan Orthodox leaders being involved in serving the community in the diaspora at this critical time. And, this is in absence of Orthodox bishops in Tigray who are under siege there and cannot participate. Among many things the omission of their responsibility to stand for what is morally right in the face of genocide and trumpeting as petty Prosperity Party cadres, belittling their fellow Tigrayan church members in public to the extent of calling the government to take action on the ‘junta’ from pulpits, it all has been a poisonous trend in the Church. Now, the Church leaders can only repent and ask for forgiveness from God and Tigray Church; otherwise, completely leave about Tigray. They cannot and should not bless, ordain, or suspend any Tigray religious leaders or they start from themselves. Let them suspend Aba Hisan or Kibret, or Abuna Yosef first! They should push to stop their poisonous campaigns of war and hatred first and repent. Tigray religious leaders from all religions must be independent of their Ethiopian counterparts. Then they can reconcile and/or discuss relationships in the future, maybe. I think.