10 Things About Ethiopian Culture

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Ethiopian Tradition
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Ethiopia, the Christian kingdom in the horn of Africa, possesses one of the most exotic and unique artistic traditional culture among all Christian communities. Although its inspiration comes from the same sources as the Byzantine and other Eastern Orthodox traditions (Syrian, Armenian and Egyptian), how it has developed in Ethiopia is completely different. This reflects a general characteristic of Ethiopian culture, namely the ability to absorb the inspiration from different sources and be able to transform it into a unique form of civilization with a remarkably resilient historical continuity. Old and more recent traditions have been united in Ethiopia and the national orthodox culture is reflected in exuberant festivals and events that affect the lives of all inhabitants.

The earliest documented archaeological presence of Christianity in Ethiopia dates back to the fourth century when King Ezana was converted by Saint Frumentius, also known as Abba Salama, Father of Peace. Abba Salama was ordained bishop of Ethiopia by Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria. This led to the custom that the Ethiopian bishops received their ordination and mission from Egypt. Thus, Ethiopia became ecclesiastically dependent on Alexandria, although the vitality and number of Christians in Ethiopia was much greater. As a result, for a long time, Ethiopia was deprived of regular contact with the rest of Christianity by the Muslim conquest of the surrounding countries.

At the end of the 1950s, however, this arrangement came to an end and the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia became a car-taker. Until then, Ethiopians and Egyptians had been members of one church and the name ‘Coptic’, which originally means ‘Egyptian’, was used for both. After obtaining the status of the autocephalic church, however, the name ‘Coptic’ was used exclusively for the Orthodox church of Egypt, while the church of Ethiopia began to call itself ‘Ethiopian Orthodox culture Tweaked Beyda Kristian’, the ‘United Orthodox Church of Ethiopia’. The word Tweaked refers to the Christian doctrine of the Church of Ethiopia, that Christ has one nature, which at the same time is fully human and fully divine.

Much confusion results from the fact that there are still many books in circulation, which describe the church of Ethiopia as Coptic, whereas this is factually incorrect at the moment. The artistic traditions of Ethiopian culture are also completely different. There are some common traits, but many of the most striking aspects are by no means the same.


10The Development Of An Indigenous Ethiopian Traditional Cuture

Ethiopian Culture
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At a time when Ethiopia was a nation with global maritime trade, Christianity spread through missionary monks. They laid the foundation for Mediterranean literary culture, using the Ge’ez language, which originated from ancient Seabees, a South-Semitic language. Gradually, however, the Centre of gravity of the country’s power moved inward and southward and the trade came into the hands of Muslim merchants. Local elements were incorporated into the national culture.

In the 13th century, there was a non-Semitic dynasty, the Zagwes, which had the famous rock-hewn churches built in Lalibela. Artistic concepts from elsewhere were gradually transformed and reflected aspects of local traditions. Just as, as Christianity spread further south, the rectangular stone churches of the North were replaced by circular churches built with local materials, so the style of the images in those churches also changed.

Ethiopia has a humid climate, which means that objects are not as well preserved as in Egypt. In the drier north, the churches built in carved stone may be very old, but few paintings from before the eleventh or twelfth century have survived. These show a strong affinity with the art of the Christian East and are mainly found in frescoes such as those in Beyta Maryam Lalibela and illuminated manuscripts such as those of the monastery of Abunas Garima in Tigray. The decoration of the manuscripts is of high quality and deals with subjects that occur in Byzantine, Armenian and Late Coptic art, with motifs as the source of life.

The art historians have divergent views on the periods of Ethiopian art culture. Some, such as A. Jager and Lisselotte Deiniger Engelhart, propose three periods (before the sixteenth century, then until the seventeenth and from there until today), while Guy Annequin and Claude Lepage only distinguish a medieval and a Gondarian (named after a royal residence) period. Jules Leroy, on the other hand, speaks of a period influenced by the Christian East, followed by one influenced by the Christian West. One of the greatest specialists in Ethiopian art, Stanislaw Chojnacki, emphasizes that it would be overconfident to want to categorize the abundance of material that is difficult to classify, especially as far as dating is concerned. However, progress is being made through the use of systematic methods.

We are well documented concerning a visit by famous foreign artists in the 15th century. Among them was the Venetian Nicolo Brancaleon, who stayed at the royal court. They introduced certain Western themes, which were soon adapted to Ethiopian representations. They also promoted a more naturalistic trend, which meant that African facial features were depicted more realistically. The earlier works show very stylized long heads and faces, while in the Gonderian period the typical round African faces and naturalistic representations of plants and animals predominate.


9The Spiritual Significance Of Ethiopian Art Culture

Ethiopian Art culture
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S.Chojnacki describes the special characteristics of Ethiopian art culture as follows: The emphasis is on the frontal and horizontal. The human proportions are freely interpreted. Great emphasis is placed on the face and eyes. Often there is an element of distortion and deviation, but this has been done very carefully to express special ideas. An abundance of geometric shapes and a spontaneous rhythm of lines are used to express the movement of real life. All this by the basic principles of African art culture, such as the use of bright colors and strong contrasts. In the context of foreign trade, the demand for foreign influences is related. For example, all kinds of products were imported from India and this certainly had a certain influence on the practice of art.

The traditional approach of Ethiopian art culture was not to express individual artistic ability but to remain faithful to existing traditions and conventions. Ethiopian spirituality culture attaches great importance to and has great respect for sacred representations (normally two-dimensional). They are used in narrative teaching and inspire the faithful. However, there is no clearly defined theology of icons as is the case in the Byzantine traditional culture.

In the footsteps of Giorgis van Gasicha – a quest in the Ethiopian spiritual world this is the title of an exhibition, which will be held in the ‘Abbey Candle Gallery’ of Saint Adelbert Abbey in Egmond-Binnen. It is organized by the author of this article, candidate theology with the main subject being Ethiopian Monachism. He has just returned from a stay of almost three years in Ethiopia. This exhibition combines the material from an ‘Eastern Festival Exhibition’ at ‘The School of Oriental Studies’ in London (1995) with that from an exhibition at the Alliance Ethio Française, Addis Abeba (1997), which was sponsored by the Dutch Embassy, and with some new work.

The aim is to provide a visual insight into Ethiopian spirituality culture through a pictorial representation of a mystical poem by the well-known Ethiopian Saint Giorgis of Gasicha (1365-1425), which is, in fact, a kind of Creed. Giorgis of Gasicha played an important role in the theological discussions during his lifetime. After his death, his books formed the basis for the Ethiopian Orthodox culture teaching. The poem on faith is a lesser-known work that combines biblical images and an interaction of opposites to express Ethiopian Christology culture, which emphasizes the unity of the divine and human elements like Christ.

Most of the works are by Joachim Person himself and his assistants, the deacons Yohannes Assemu and Kifley Assefa. There are also some older works and contributions by other artists such as Ato Taddesse Aragawi, curator at the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture. They represent the traditional ecclesiastical style on different materials, mainly wood and parchment. Several old and new books have been exhibited, some with the text by Giorgis of Gasicha, together with the writing tools, giving an idea of Ethiopian calligraphy.

Various other traditional objects are on display, which illustrates something of the Ethiopian liturgical culture. Some works in the style of other Eastern Orthodox churches emphasize the ties that Ethiopia has with the Eastern Orthodox sister churches, which share the same spirituality. Much attention is given, for example, to the cross, which, as the second tree of paradise and a symbol of victory, is of great significance in all Eastern traditions.


8African Soil Culture

African Soil culture
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The power that Ethiopian icons radiate is a typical example of the African roots of this religious art. With Byzantine icons, the paintings have in common that they do not reflect reality to reflect, but to initiate a spiritual movement. The Ethiopian market of religious images is flooded with foreign images, often in cheap Italian or Indian style, so that one’s tradition threatens to be swamped. The call to return to the roots of Ethiopian art sounds up, while art redefines and tries to contribute to the design of the sacred in modern Ethiopia.

Ethiopian painting was relatively unknown and was underestimated up to the beginning of the twentieth century. Generations of Europeans were not able to maintain the typical qualities of Ethiopian art. Only when the European senses became sensitive to the primitive and the essential values of African art, people realized and recognized its true value.

Three factors were decisive in the development of Ethiopian art: the Christian creed, the root of it on African soil and the endurance of the Ethiopian people. Because Ethiopia was able to maintain its political independence in the colonial time, Ethiopian art has retained its specific character. Ethiopian Christianity and the Ethiopian culture are largely colored by the African background, but the African roots of Ethiopian art have been little researched yet.

Ethiopian painting has in common with African art that it prefers representations based on conceptual perception, rather than on visual imagination, and the to convey meaning through a twisting of forms. The purpose of this art is not to make a reality of the but rather reflect a spiritual movement by denoting distortion. Different perspectives are brought together while maintaining a serene atmosphere.

Such distortions are close to the universal features of primitive art and give shape to its resistance to the individualistic world of the modern industrial age, which has been her crumbled character has nothing left. These are examples of much more general processes that make it accessible without alienation, and that implies a return to the original being, with its rudimentary and essential character.

By twisting and refining the forms, the artist succeeds in making the outer form appear. to reveal the truth. Simplification and abstraction create schematic characters in an unspecified environment. Ethiopian aesthetics determine the atmosphere of spirituality. The artistic idiom of Ethiopian visual arts consists mainly of image signs that go back to iconographic forms, spread all over the Christian world, and to figures who have become stereotyped. Ethiopian painting is unrealistic in its representation. of environment and figures. Even when her artistic perfection had reached its climax, she apart from creating the illusion of depth and perspective.

The Ethiopian tradition has its origins in African soils through natural growth and cherishes an African ethos in her heart. One of the most striking features of African culture is its holistic’ and integrative character, whereby the individual is related to the community. Another characteristic is a positive understanding of power. Ethiopian spiritual Pictures radiate through their proportions and overall convey a feeling of strength and strength. They are not tender or sweet.

The Ethiopian tradition is eclectic. It has adopted several foreign elements, which have been completely transformed to create its own unique culture. There are former Sabaic (South-Semitic) influences and later influences from the Christian East, Europe, Arabia, and India. Indigenous traditions absorbed and transformed foreign influences so that they were integrated into the local cultural context. Ethiopia is a large country, where local differences have always been strong. Also, in the field of theology, Christology and art culture.


7Culture Of Contemporary Religious Art

Contemporary Religious Art culture
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The Ethiopian Church worships manuscripts and parchment paintings as icons. They are displayed in churches at special occasions and festivals, in times of great need and at intercessions to prevent disaster. Ethiopian churches culture are often quite simple from the outside, but inside they are covered with an abundance of colorful murals. Visitors or worshippers are overwhelmed by it. During the holy liturgy, it seems as if they are surrounded by a multitude of saints and angels.

Most churches are painted according to a certain scheme. On the south wall, where the women stand, pictures of apocryphal stories about the holy virgin and the childhood of Jesus are depicted. While the north wall of the sanctuary, where the men stand, shows pictures of knightly saints, early martyrs such as Saint Mereurios and Saint Theodor (whose virtues are expressed by knightly bravery). Giant angels with drawn-out swords guard the entrance to the holiest of holies. A special habit is to provide important statues of worship with hanging in front of them so that they become invisible to disrespectful glances. According to Ethiopian custom, only crosses are kissed. Images are worshipped by bowing before them and the clergy sacrifice incense for them. They are anointed and blessed with other church objects, but it is not customary to anoint them for private use.

Ethiopians like to use many images. Prayer cards are full of illustrations. Thousands of prints are offered for sale at large festivals, most of them of Italian or Indian origin. Works by local artists are also exhibited, but the volume of foreign production is so large that the indigenous tradition can hardly stand up to it and is in danger of collapsing. Orthodox bishops also show little inclination to distinguish and preach while standing in front of statues depicting the immaculate conception, which have no connection with orthodox theology.

At the height of the communist regime, one iconography replaced another. The victory of communism was depicted on images of the new trinity: Marx, Engels, and Lenin. They looked at the people from the posters. The defeat of communism (the communist Dong regime ruled from 1974 to 1991) became noticeable with the return of the Christian symbols. In 1986, the Minister of Culture, Girma Yilma, exhibited spiritual images by artist Atto Tadesse Aragawi. He expressed his appreciation for the spiritual art heritage of Ethiopia.

During the communist period, poverty, the horrors of famine, political terror and civil war had made religion relevant and spiritual models became a way to find a meaningful identity and attitude. Newly formed parish councils ensured that urban churches were able to survive and even flourish, and provided a new working atmosphere for the disoriented population. Functionality triumphed; the large scriptoria were replaced by workshops for murals such as the one in the Mandabe Medhaney Alem monastery near Gorgora.

The field of religion was invaded by secularism, but then the opposite happened. Dedicated art was given new strength and new relevance. There is a call to return to the roots of Ethiopian art, but uncertainty about the nature of the images and idealized ‘Europeanised’ physiognomy are still common. The appointment of artists is a matter for the representatives of the masses. Ethiopian art is dynamic and present right down to the humblest hut. It begins to define itself again and to contribute to a re-creation of the sacred in the new secular situation of modern Ethiopia.


6Called To Life With God

church of Ethiopian culture
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On the poster of the Sunday for the Eastern Churches is the saint Takla Haimanot. His name means ‘plant of faith’. The figure of Takla Haimanot is surrounded by many legends. We know that he was born around 1215 and became a deacon at a young age and later a priest.

He entered a monastery on an island in Lake Haq. At the time, Ethiopia was in an important political transition. The old Zagwe dynasty collapsed and some princes placed themselves in the so-called Solomonid dynasty. Since the thirteenth century, the new rulers of Ethiopia consider themselves descendants of Menelik, the legendary son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Takla Haimanot has been given an important role in ‘restoring’ this supposedly biblical dynastic line, which in Ethiopia was extended to Haile Selassie (emperor from 1930 to 1974).

Takla Haimanot was a charismatic figure and, by Ethiopian monastic tradition, pupils joined him. He is called the “Apostle of the South” because he was the most important religious proclaimer in the region around Debre Libanos. He also gave an important impulse to the monastic movement in that region. There he lived his strict ascetic life until he died around 1313.

Takla Haimanot is a great saint in the church of Ethiopia. In every Ethiopian Orthodox church, there is a painting of him. He is buried in the crypt under the church of Debre Libanos. Many lines of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity come together in Takla Haimanot: the involvement of the church with the Ethiopian state in general and with the Solomonid dynasty in particular, the missionary spirit that characterizes the Ethiopian church of yesterday and today, the monastic movement as an important spiritual current to this day.

The image on the poster is from the collection of the Nijmegen Ethnographic Museum. The saint is depicted on the poster in his monk’s clothing. He misses his right foot, which is on the left side of the picture, and he has wings. Legend has it that Takla Haimanot was praying for many years until one leg fell off, on which he got wings. The saint prayed for another seven years, four of which he spent without drinking. Even now there are still monks in Ethiopia who roam around, live as hermits or allow themselves to be locked up (recluse).

Takla Haimanot lived in a turbulent time, with a lot of quarrels and struggles. It is therefore sometimes suggested that he lost his lower leg in a less sacred way, namely in a military encounter, in which he would have participated in one way or another. On the poster, Takla Haimanot shows us the gospel book and the cross. Ethiopian Christianity is a thoroughly biblical Christianity. Not only the Gospel but also the Old Testament has a large place in the religious experience of the Ethiopian Church.

The cross is much revered in Ethiopia. The feast of the Raising of the Cross in September is one of the great feasts at Easter, Christmas, and Epiphany. And in every morning service, both the Gospel Book and a large silver cross are carried around the church by a deacon to be revered by everyone with two bends and two kisses. In the lower right corner of this image, Ethiopian letters read “The Prayer of our Father Takla Haimanot.

In the story of Takla Haimanot, we can look at so much extravagant self-flagellation with disgust and estrangement. But we can also try to look at it in a different, more biblical way. The importance of prayer in the Ethiopian tradition is clear. And can we see Takla Haimanot’s ascetic actions as a prophetic act? The prophets in Israel performed, by order of God, many ‘symbolic acts’ (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and others), such as marrying an adulterous woman (Hosea 3, 1-5) or supporting and groaning like a broken man (Ezekiel 21, 11-12); also in the New Testament we encounter such symbolic acts (Acts 21, 10-11; Revelation 18, 21).

The Ethiopian saint’s story lets Takla Haimanot himself give a hint in that direction, when the saint, at the beginning of his long-standing prayer, pronounces these meaningful psalm verses: In this way, Takla Haimanot’s asceticism becomes a symbolic act, a prophetic call to what he had stood for all his life in his pastoral care, in his missionary activities and his spiritual life within the monastic movement: finding a place for God. In the figure of Takla Haimanot, we find many aspects of Ethiopian Christianity, also of the time after him. Not for nothing is he the most important national saint. Takla Haimanot stands for the entire Ethiopian tradition: finding a place for God. This applies to history, but also the future. In that respect, the Ethiopian Christians remain ‘called to a life with God’.


5Ethiopia Is A Country With Many Cultures And Languages

Ethiopian tradition Culture
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The national language is Amharic, a Semitic language (related to Hebrew and Arabic). Long before the Christian era, Semites traveled from Yemen to East Africa and laid an important foundation for Ethiopian civilization together with the indigenous peoples of that time.

A special feature of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is that it is very old. Ethiopia received its Christianity in two waves of missions – in the fourth and fifth centuries – from Syria. However, the hierarchical line ran through the church of Egypt, the later Coptic church, from where the Ethiopian church received its bishops until well into the twentieth century. However, we should not call the church of Ethiopia Coptic. Coptic means ‘Egyptian’, and despite its ties with Egypt, Ethiopia has its form of Christianity, an Ethiopian!

In a centuries-long process, the Ethiopian Church was able to combine indigenous culture with influences from elsewhere. They developed in an independent way what they had received, for example, church music and the typical Ethiopian icon art. Ethiopian culture is thoroughly Christian. Questions of inculturation do not arise here – at least in central Ethiopia.

The current religious map of Ethiopia is formed by Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and animism. Ethiopia is roughly half Christian and half Islamic. There are also a few Falashas or Beta Israel (House of Israel), native Ethiopians who adopted the Jewish faith centuries ago. In the last quarter of the 20th century, almost all of them emigrated in a few waves to Israel, where after some fighting, they were recognized as real Jews by the Orthodox rabbis. In the south life – less than 10% of the population – people who adhere to traditional African religion.

For a long time, Muslims were socially and politically invisible within Ethiopia’s dominant Christian society. Most Muslims can be found in the areas that were annexed to Ethiopia after 1880 by Emperor Menelik II (in the south and the east), but also among the (mostly Christian) Amharen there is a group of Muslims who had already switched to Islam in the 16th century as a result of the invasions of the Muslim warlord Gragn.

Now that there has been a government in Ethiopia since 1991 that wants to build up a Western democracy, the Muslims are manifesting themselves more clearly in society. There are Muslims in government and there is a lot of financial support for Muslims from Arab countries in the Middle East, on the other side of the Red Sea and therefore very close by. There are noises in Ethiopia that a large part of the trade is dominated by Ethiopian (and Arab) Muslims, and that transitions to Islam are often for nothing: poor people who, lured by promises of a materially better life, join this religion. It is difficult to assess to what extent these statements by Christians in Ethiopia are based on (partial) truth. It is said that most religious animosity in Ethiopia is not between Muslims and Christians, but between Christians themselves.

In addition to the dominant Ethiopian Orthodox Church, there are several hundreds of thousands of Catholics, from both the Eastern (most north of Addis Ababa) and Western rites (south of Addis Ababa). The relations between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church of Ethiopia are not very close on an official level. There are good individual contacts, even with bishops and the patriarch, but Catholics say that they have little meaning in the public domain.

There is a Lutheran church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesu, which claims three million believers. Also, there are baptists and especially Pentecostal churches. Especially between Orthodox and Protestants, there is tension; the Protestant traditions are experienced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as Western intruders and as formidable competitors.


4Culture Of Ethiopians In The Netherlands

Ethiopian Orthodox Church
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The Ethiopian community in the Netherlands is concentrated in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Young Ethiopians like to live in the cities, where they have more social opportunities and meet other Ethiopians more easily. However, there are also Ethiopians living elsewhere in the country, either for work or study or because they have been given a place there in an asylum seekers’ center.

The group changes quite quickly because many of them go to other countries. Ethiopians in the Netherlands often find it difficult to identify with the Dutch culture, which they often find too businesslike and too individualistic. Most Ethiopians in the Netherlands are Orthodox, but – as in Ethiopia – there are also Ethiopian Catholics and Protestants. A small part of the Ethiopians in the Netherlands is Muslim.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Netherlands is in the process of organizing itself and strives for a distinct Orthodox identity. It works a lot with other Orthodox people, for example with the Dutch Orthodox monastery St. Jan the Baptist in The Hague. Some believers visit celebrations of both the Orthodox and Catholic communities. The Catholic Ethiopian celebrations in the Netherlands are also visited by Protestants and Orthodox and Ethiopians from different ethnic groups. Protestant Ethiopians also hold their celebrations.


3The Conflict Between Ethiopia And Eritrea

Ethiopia and Eritrea War
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Eritrea is part of historic Ethiopia. It has a population of which the largest half is Muslim and the smaller half Christian. The agreement with Ethiopia is a big one. Eritrea, however, has a partly different political history behind it.

At the end of the 19th century, the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II allowed the Italian presence in Eritrea, so that the Italians could colonize this country until the Second World War. During the Second World War, the British took over the administration of Eritrea in 1941, after which it formed a federation with Ethiopia as a separate area in 1952.

In 1962, however, Eritrea was completely absorbed by Ethiopia as an Ethiopian province. By 1961, a movement of resistance had already emerged against what the Eritreans felt was Ethiopian domination. When Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 gave way to the Marxist dictatorship of Derg, the latter took over the Emperor’s Eritrea policy.

Eritrea continues to oppose Ethiopian rule. In the early 1990s, Eritrean fighters for independence joined forces with the liberation movement of Tigray, today’s northern Ethiopia. Both in Tigray and Eritrea, the main language is Tigrigna. The language colleagues beat the ‘Amharic’ communist regime, but the language agreement on the Eritrean side cannot take away the political aspirations.

Eritrea wants to continue its independence and becomes an independent country in 1993 with the consent of Ethiopia. Soon an Eritrean Orthodox Church of its own came into being, to which the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria offered autocephalous (ecclesiastical self-reliance). There is a conflict with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church about this ecclesiastical independence, especially about how the Eritrean Orthodox Church has obtained it.

In the meantime, there are Tigrigna-speaking governments both in Addis Ababa and in the Eritrean capital Asmara (and on the ecclesiastical thrones of both Ethiopia and Eritrea also patriarchs who speak Tigrigna). The political differences between the Eritreans and Ethiopian ruling rulers from Tigray in 1998 lead to war over a piece of land on the Eritrean-Ethiopian border. This war claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and ended in a ceasefire and a cold war between the two states.


2How Yared Learned The Bible From The Outside In Ethiopian Culture

Saint Yared culture
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In the Ethiopian tradition, children have still often ordained deacons. They have to know whole texts from the outside. The Book of Saints of the Ethiopian tradition tells the following story about Yared, the saint to whom the creation of the Ethiopian church song is attributed: Yared was from the family of Abba Gideon, one of the priests of the church of Aksum.

When Saint Gideon began to teach Blessed Yared the psalms of David, he could not remember them for very long. When Gideon succeeded him, Yared fled to the countryside and sat down in the shade of a tree. There he saw a worm crawling into a tree. When it was halfway up that tree, it fell to the ground again. That’s how it went time and time again, and with a lot of effort, the worm finally climbed high into the tree.

When Saint Yared saw the worm’s commitment, he came to his senses. He went back to his teacher – his father – and said to him, “Forgive me, father, and make me what you want!” His spiritual teacher took him up again. When Yared begged God in tears, his understanding was opened and in one day he learned both the New and Old Testaments from outside. Then Yared has ordained a deacon.


1Social Achievements

Social Achievements
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Although Ethiopia has a tradition associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for seventeen hundred years of education, in comparison with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia scores low in the field of education. The modernization of Haile Selassie was limited to secondary education and universities. When he stepped down in 1974, 93% of the population over the age of 15 were unable to read and write.

The government of Mengistu Haile Mariam caught up, started a literacy campaign and expanded primary education by establishing a school in each village. On 1 1980 Unesco awarded Ethiopia with the Literacy Prize. Twelve million people had learned to read and write. Half of them were women. In retrospect, the expansion of primary education turned out to be mainly quantitative. Its quality left much to be desired.

In 2004, half of the men and two-thirds of the women were still unable to read or write. Although the number of new primary school pupils rose from 5 million to 8.1 million between 1996 and 2001, the number of dropouts after the first year is high, there are few girls and the quality of the teaching material and the teachers is poor. Less than 40% of the teachers are qualified. According to researchers at the University of Addis Ababa, achieving universal primary education 2015, one of the Millennium Development Goals, is an illusion. Within the framework of the second Educational Sector Development Program, the government wants to significantly increase the number of children attending primary school in five years.

The quality of education must not deteriorate. In many places, there must be evening classes and other informal education. This hardly exists at the moment. It is important for the nine million children between the ages of 5 and 17 who perform child labor and cannot attend school during the day. Formal and informal education for women is important because educated mothers encourage their children to go to school more than educated fathers. Because there is a great need for technically skilled people, the government is building new secondary technical schools.

The country has six universities with less than forty thousand students and a corps of three thousand-headed teachers. The University of Makelle in Tigray is the fastest growing. The growth of the education sector is threatened by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Ethiopia has renowned research institutes in the fields of social sciences, economics, and its own country and peoples.

Many Ethiopians, especially those outside the cities, wear amulets with a short kata, conjuring text, on parchment. These are meant to ward off disease and mischief. They depend on one of the nine thousand registered traditional healers, and otherwise on one of the seventy thousand unregistered, who prescribe honey for breast pain and jasmine for stomach problems. Disease and misfortune can be caused by a zar, a spirit, which then has to be expelled.

Health care is free but there is a screaming lack of doctors and nurses. Almost half of the population lives more than ten kilometers from a regular health post. Who can, goes to one of the many private clinics in the big cities or asks the pharmacist for advice? One in ten babies dies during their first year of life. The maternal mortality of women is among the highest in Africa. Most people live without clean drinking water and sanitation. Wars, local conflicts, and droughts have been a major blow to the physical resistance of the Ethiopians over the decades. TB, jaundice, and malaria are common. According to the World Health Organization. More than 46 million Ethiopians live in malaria areas, one-third of them are in constant danger. In children under the age of five, malaria is the main cause of death.

More than 10% of the sexually active population, or three million people, are infected with HIV. Women in the sex industry carry car drivers and soldiers are most at risk. The Ethiopian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, the Orthodox Church and other denominations are involved in information campaigns on HIV and AIDS in various ways.

Despite Lucy, who is over three million years old, and the Queen of Sheba, who reigned almost three thousand years ago, there is no question of equal rights or opportunities for women. Officially it is. Mengistu’s party founded REWA, the Revolutionary Women’s Association and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi established a Women’s Affairs Office attached to its own office and with departments in each ministry. But that cannot disguise the fact that women in Ethiopia still have a lot to gain. For example, two-thirds of women would like to have fewer children than at present, but less than 10% have access to birth control.

It is estimated that 80% of women in Ethiopia are circumcised and that they are women of all ranks, classes, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. All three forms of circumcision girizat occur in Amharic: Pharaonic circumcision (complete removal of clitoris and labia, after which the vagina, except a small opening, is stitched up), circumcision in which the clitoris is removed and circumcision in which only the tip of the clitoris is removed. The latter is most commonly used in Addis Ababa, where 70% of women are still being circumcised Apart from the traumatic effect of the circumcision, the risk of HIV infection is high because of the inadequate sterilization of instruments for surgery.

After the World AIDS Conference in Johannesburg in 2003, several hundred Ethiopian women who carry out the circumcisions promised to stop doing so. Here and there, men openly speak out in favor of marriage to an uncircumcised woman. Not only among the Oromo, but also other ethnic groups, it is customary for a man to turn his eye on a girl, kidnap her, hide with her for just as long and then marry her. This often amounts to rape. Many men dismiss this as a tradition. Very slowly women start to resist it.

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