Orphaning the orphan, Geez

By Godofai Tgiorgis
Oct. 13 2010

This does not mean accepting new ideas of an import nature guarantees the success and progress Ethiopia needs. In many cases, they, excluding some exceptions, are liabilities. They are Achilles’ hill by which many of the dependent countries are dragged to their feet. The anything Western is good approach therefore is not a remedy to all the ills the less developed countries have whether this is of language or other problems. In fact it is the worst pill one need not swallow for a cure if you will. It has a ruinous effect, unless pursued carefully, able to bring a country to a standstill. Resisting everything is dangerous but welcoming everything that is foreign is worse. It tampers everything that is indigenous including but not limited to sovereignty and independence.

The idea of putting English as a prerequisite to the peace and development of Ethiopia highlights only our misunderstanding either the nature of English or the development Ethiopia needs or both because Ethiopian renaissance is possible without short exchanging its culture, its religion and its languages. Ethiopia can bring Change without subscribing to English or things that are foreign. Ethiopia can prosper without using English or the culture it is associated with .English or foreign language can be a catalyst to knowing but not to doing because, if it were so, many countries which use English and are still tailgating would have been better off. Ethiopia, therefore, does not need English as official language because it can be where it needs to be, whether this is development or other, by utilizing its own resources and languages such as Geez.

The rise and fall of any language is directly related with the rise and fall of the role of the country of its origin. When the country is powerful and dominant so is its language. Hebrew, Greek and Latin, to mention few, were the lingua franca when the civilization and power of those countries was at its peak but their influence waned following their country’s power decline. English too came to prominence following the rise of the Britons to world power. When we think of Geez what we need to think of is therefore our capabilities. Whether we can bring back Geez or not depends on whether we have a positive outlook on ourselves, and on what is ours whether this is language or other skills. Geez is our effort, our reflections.

Once we concur that all is in our will the next thing we need is to look at ways to facilitate the implementation. There are two ways we can do this. One is through the use of the Orthodox Church and the other, through public schools. And I hope this will cool off the critics’ idea of the impossible.

Let us start with the Orthodox Church first. There are two reasons as to why involving the church is important. First it is the only place where Geez is archived. In fact it is the only place where Geez is also practiced. Second, it has many followers and it is easy for the church to do the persuasion based on its beliefs. It has the teachers. It has the materials. It has followers. The Church’s role here is pivotal. With all the necessary materials at its disposal the Church can manage to educate the public very fast. Perhaps all it needs is funding which I don’t think is difficult for the government to handle.

Here I want to point the following in passing. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Geez are different faces of the same coin. Or they are the arc and covenant and the symbiotic relation the two has been the engine behind all that is Ethiopian whether that is spiritual or mundane. Yes the influence is not that much now as it was then but the connection the heaven and the earth has is still hanging by the thread the two have in common. Geez is the language of the Gods and of course men. Maintaining geez is therefore maintaining the tradition, relation, uniqueness and unity (service is conducted in many languages now and may deviate much in the future) of the heavenly and earth that is distinct to Ethiopians.

But there is more to it also. One of the heritages that make Ethiopia unique is the Orthodox Church. By virtue of its chants, practices, the Church has lent Ethiopia its unique attributes. To preserve the uniqueness of Ethiopia, therefore, we have to preserve the Church. The Church like Geez deserves protection from those who has launched a consecutive attack on its survival alleging it is the symbol of all that is old. Yes it is an institution but the fact that such an institution is unique by itself requires our protection.

Again the critics will deem this as another plot to undermine other religions by strengthening the arm of the Church. From my perspective this has nothing to do with religion whether this is Christian or Islam or other. In fact far from it because what is at stake and I am arguing for is about our culture and language that have historical values. The Ethiopian Orthodox is unique and marks one of the uniqueness of the country likewise. Because of this characteristic, it is a national treasure and of historical importance. Protection, therefore, it needs. We care and preserve Negash in North Ethiopia and Harar in the East not because they symbolize Islam but because of the historical and cultural values. Preserving Geez and the Church should be viewed in lieu of this also.

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