By Dilwenberu Nega
June 09, 2012
No doubt you may think the following is funny and laughable, but underneath the comedy of errors by evil doers lays a deadly serious matter, which has the potential to cause havoc to communal harmony. It is, therefore, incumbent on the Ethiopian Orthodox community in America to mount a tooth and nail resistance to the ludicrous call by the runaway synod to involve EOTC America in Ethiopian politics. It was not without rhyme or reason that I posted a commentary entitled “Prevent politics from lurking behind religion” (Tigraionline, 16th May 2012). Like many of my compatriots, I, too, became terribly apprehensive about opposition politicians’ ploy to lurk behind the Cross (Christianity) and the Crescent (Islam) and to jet-hose the congregation with their lies and politicking. Recent developments have already vindicated my anxiety.
I now, therefore, seek the indulgence of readers as I write without mincing my words. I do this not to sneer and smear individuals, but I do so to highlight in black and white the gravity of the situation innocent Ethiopians are encountering. My aim in so doing is not to be or to sound paternalistic, but to share my deep concern over the matter with fellow Ethiopians, so that possible solutions are found before the situation gets worse. Besides, isn’t not mincing one’s words meant to be a tonic for life!
History is taught so that society is spared from the agony of repeating the mistakes of earlier generations, as well as to forewarn society of the danger of standing and staring while individuals sow seeds of discord. It is precisely because of such state of affairs that the well known British historian, Edmond Burke, said: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Good men and women of the Ethiopian diaspora, I humbly urge you not to sit on your hands and watch evil doers turn the House of God into a political debating chamber. Never ever must you lose sight of the fact why we all head to church every Sunday – to repent so that we are reconciled with our Creator, and not to be cheer leaders for any political party.
While it is usually taken for granted that the “servants of the Lord” are at liberty to join political parties of their choice, the Church, as an institution, on the other hand must be seen to remain apolitical and non-partisan. Even this type of understanding does not grant us the right to give political handles to our churches. For instance, it will be as ridiculous as it will be sacrilegious to call a church “St. Michael, the EPRDF”, or “St. Gabriel, the Medrek.” Any hesitation, deviation or repetition from this universally accepted modus operandi would, therefore, be as dangerous as hammering a dynamite.
I now turn to explain, in a capsule form; to the subject matter of this week’s commentary. The runaway synod, the breakaway church and the cast away journalist all have one thing in common. They have a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, a bit of yin and yang. They have split personalities, and as is the case with split personalities, they take delight in cutting a wedge between people and state, and in sowing seeds of discord and enmity within communities.
The runaway synod
It is said knowing where it aches most is half the cure. So let’s try and explore why it is that the runaway synod has taken leave of its senses? For the benefit of those who are not well versed with EOTC’s hierarchy, therefore, here, in layman’s term, is a brief explanation. “The Holy Synod,” – which is believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and not by the spirit of a foreign-based Ethiopian opposition politicians - is EOTC’s supreme governing body with an elected Patriarch as its life-long chairman. Since EOTC became an autocephalous church (governed by its own national synod and appointing its own patriarchs or prelates) some 52 years ago, it has had five patriarchs: the first and third patriarchs died of natural causes, the second patriarch got killed by Colonel Mengistu’s Special Forces, the fourth patriarch tendered his resignation to the Holy Synod on medical grounds, and eloped to neighbouring Kenya after abandoning his flock which he was entrusted to shepherd come hell or high water. He now lives in what has been endearingly dubbed by his supporters from his ancestral home of Gonder, as “Gonderville,” in USA. Never in the history of EOTC has an incumbent Patriarch abandoned his flock – allegedly to save his mortal flesh – and headed to greener pastures of America, or to anywhere else for that matter. Not even when Derg was bombing churches in towns and cities, when Derg was dumping the corpses of freshly mowed down students at the gate of his Patriarchate, did he deem it proper to abandon ship in order to petition to the international community. Had he taken such a courageous step then, he would have by now been in receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace, and we, Ethiopians, would have showered him with love and respect beyond his wildest imagination. The incumbent fifth Patriarch, on the other hand, now sits on the throne of the Holy See of St. Tekele Haimanot and continues to revamp EOTC so that it is prepared to withstand the many challenges of the 21st century.
Since EOTC’s fourth Patriarch is in a bad state of health, the learned, but notorious cabalist Secretary General of the runaway synod has been commissioned to carry out the day-to-day work of the runaway synod. As the love of money is the root of all evil, so is the bigoted contempt of the Secretary General the root of all problems within EOTC America. Interlocutors who have been working tirelessly to bring about the much yearned for peace and reconciliation between the official and the internationally recognised synod in Addis Ababa, and the unofficial and internationally not recognised synod in America, place blame for the unproductive nature of its shuttle diplomacy squarely on the shoulders of this octogenarian Secretary General. Viewed by surviving members of Haile Selassie’s regime as the “Rasputin” of the late Emperor, the Secretary General leaves no stone unturned not only to rock EOTC’s boat, but to make EOTC the playing ground of opposition politicians in the diaspora. At the behest of his paymasters – exiled politicians – the Secretary General has now unabashedly announced that formation of a task force of Bishops and Arch Bishops with the mandate to carry out “a divinely ordained offensive to oust EPRDF.” Under the guise of the campaign against the spurious desecration of Waldeba Monastery, a gaggle of Bishops and Arch Bishops are seen shanghaiing vulnerable Ethiopians into contributing in cash and in kind for an all out “holy war in the nook and crannies of America.” If this is not desperation gone haywire, I want to know what is.
Fellow Ethiopians, I, therefore, want to offer you my humble fraternal advice: show wisdom in all your dealings. Never lose sight of the fact that salvation comes only from faith and good work. No good, let alone salvation, flows from evil deeds. Dragging our ancient mother church into politics, in order to quench the thirst for power of either politician who hasn’t got a leg to stand on at elections, or to cheer lead election win dodgers, would be like playing with fire.
The breakaway church
Anyone who watched the video clip of Abebe Gellaw’s testimony to the fellowship of EOTC in Seattle would definitely come to understand the essence of the age-old saying “the devil cites the Scripture for his purpose.” What you have here is a breakaway church doing the break down. I, of course, don’t mean the dance, but the breakdown of the canon law of EOTC. During the Derg’s reign, we had witnessed extra-ordinary acts of hooliganism taking place inside church buildings. A frocked cadre of the Derg showcased his art in using a Colt 45 pistol as he mowed down a monk as he encountered stiff resistance to removal of a Tabot from St Ragueal Church in Merkato. Some churches in Addis were even ill disposed to conduct memorial services for those arbitrarily killed by the Derg. All these are nothing to what is being cooked for us by the breakaway church.
Here is a bird’s eye view of what took place some two weeks ago at, what is for all intents and purposes home to the Spirit of the Living God. An Arch Bishop, in his full arch bishop’s regalia, was using the gold-plated cross on his right hand to showcase his talent in Mengistu-style sloganeering. As if this was not enough act of buffoonery to bring the church into disrepute, officers of the breakaway church just observed a five minute monastic silence as the Arch Bishop performed a binge of malapropism (ludicrous misuse of a word). Words spoken in churches, by both the clergy and the laity, as St. Paul often reminds Christians must be edifying, and not mortifying. According to the faith of EOTC, and indeed, to the faith of the whole of Christendom, churches use the word “Resurrection” when referring to no one else but the Risen Christ. However, the breakaway Arch Bishop bulldozed all norms of correct behaviour of EOTC and described Abebe Gellaw as “the harbinger of Ethiopia’s Resurrection!” To be honest, I don’t care a brass farthing if the runaway synod decide to sanctify Abebe, but not in the name of my religion EOTC.
Abebe’s appearance on the floor of a church – no matter how it had turned into madness galore – raises more questions than answers. What useful purpose is gained by inviting a politician cum journalist to the floor of a church? Was God glorified? Did the congregation get edified? Or was it a publicity stunt designed by the control and command centre of the breakaway church - Editor of Ethiomedia.com?
The castaway journalist
Much has been said and written about the pros and cons of Abebe Gelaw’s sloganeering. While those with no clue to what heroism is were quick to reward him with the title of a hero and shower him with goodies that one sees at car-boot sales, those who have had their baptism of fire when fighting the mortars, tanks and aeroplanes of the Derg were also quick to rubbish Abebe’s antics as cowardice and moronic. Anyway, now the dust has settled and with Abebe’s G7 at war with itself, and with the real prospect of the Ethics Committee of the NCP strucking off Abebe from Members List on grounds of “journalistic malpractice,” - which has nothing to do with freedom of speech, thought and expression – hovering over his head, Abebe and his mentor, Editor of Ethiomedia.com are left with no choice but to quickly embark on a damage limitation exercise.
The outcome has been to sneak in at the breakaway church where the regimented congregation would honour Abebe’s new-fangled “Apparition” with a round of applause. This would give the oxygen of publicity Abebe needed to save him from relapsing into the kind of mental depression which he had suffered during his lecturing stint at North London College. I have no way of finding out if it was a chance meeting in a flat in London that Abebe described as his road to Damascus (a very important experience which changes one’s whole life). Nor do I want to challenge his claim of his slogans being divinely ordained. All I need to know from Abebe at this stage is if he could confirm to us that the voice of ESAT is also the voice of God? And how about one for the road: did the good Lord tell Abebe that G7 would rule over Ethiopia? If yes, for how long? If no, is he ready to abandon ship or to sink with Birrhanuand Co.? Abebe, as your American compatriots would say, “Tell it to the Marines!”