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On April 2nd, 2018 I was travelling around Saris, Addis Ababa, where the fear mixed atmosphere that smelled all over the city was keeping heads down. As I passed by a children shop I saw a very strange and scary thing by the time. I saw a group of people gathered outside of a cafeteria for unknown reason. Taking the imposed state of emergency into consideration, gathering was unthinkable. I got closer only to found out that they were all watching a television from the already filled cafeteria. I tried to see who they were watching. There was this young man on the television making speech. He was the newly elected prime minster whose background was not yet known. I joined the mass to listen to the young charismatic leader.  As I tried to read the faces of the audience around, they all seem to say, “This is the new prime minister, huh?” I surely read some hope and of course more doubt. One thing I remember was that most of the audiences were wishing him luck, “May God help him!” Of course they were saying, “mtsm,” a sound most Ethiopians make to sympathize.

A year later, when I see what happened in his first year of premiership, I can say God had helped this man. In fact I share what Haile Mariam Desalegn, the former F.D.R.E prime minster, said about Abiy in an interview. Yes, “Abiy’s election has divine intervention.” The country has never been preached love like in the first year of Abiy’s premiership. For 80+ nations and nationalities comprising the country who lacked a single common language that unifies them, Abiy became the new language who was cherished and spoken by the people from North to South, and from East to West of the country. Love, forgiveness and synergy or “Medemer” (summation) were the daily languages of the people. If there is no divine intervention in this I don’t know where.

I cannot list all the positives and the glories that happened in the first 365 days of Abiy’s premiership. I can only take my reader to an area where we can appreciate the glory; hence, I choose to see Abiy’s first 365 days through the lens of Christianity. The first year of Abiy’s premiership becomes extraordinary when we consider what it means for Ethiopian Christianity. I argue that Christianity has never been treated in the past as PM Abiy did in his 1st year as a prime minster. It was a very Christian year for Ethiopia. I understand that some of my readers might not able to chew what I just said. Hence, I have listed five reasons why I believe Ethiopia had a very Christian year in the first year of premiership of the young charismatic leader.

1. The Man Himself is a Devoted Christian

I wrote a piece titled, “Does PM Abiy’s religion matter?” in response to Tom Gardner’s article on the religion of PM Abiy and his teammates. PM Abiy Ahmed is a devote Christian from a Pentecostal background. I have argued in that article that Abiy’s religion does really matter.

One might ask why what’s new about Abiy’s religion. After all weren’t majority of Ethiopia’s historical leaders Christians? Of course majority of leaders of Ethiopia confessed to be Christians. What makes Abiy’s unique, however, is the sect of Christianity he came from. Pentecostalism (followers in Ethiopia are called “Pente”, a short for Pentecostal) has been a much persecuted sect of Christianity in Ethiopia for the last 60+ years. Abiy’s ascension has voiced that “pentes” are no longer the ever silent minorities. It has a message that “pentes” are Christians who really care about their country.

For the truth seeking church loving Christians of any sect, Abiy’s ascension has helped one step into understanding the minority “pentes” as well. If you don’t know what it means to have a leader who is “pente,” ask the followers, the old followers. They will tell you with praise filled weeping.

2. Love, Forgiveness and Summation Were Preached

In the entire history of the nation, I have never come across a leader who preached love, forgiveness, and unity as Abiy did in his first premiership year. Even the so called Christian emperors never preached love and forgiveness as much the influence as they had. PM Abiy taught the people a new philosophy of unity called “medemer”. He preached again and again that the complex nature of the problems of this country can only be solved with love and forgiveness.

He forgave one time terrorist labeled political competitors. He went to the exiled political personalities and publicly hugged them. If you cannot see Christianity here, I don’t know where. Yes, we had a very Christian year. I am thankful about this. Jesus taught love, and forgave sinners. Abiy preached love and forgave prisoners.

Many Christians including me have prayed to see God’s kingdom in institutions. Abiy has shown us what it looks like when the kingdom of God enters into the political system. Prisoners are set free, people become free enough to express their idea, and love and forgiveness are preached. This is how God is glorified in the politics.

3. Ethiopian Orthodox Church Unified

A banner seen in front of Dembel bulding Bole, made by Kolfe Youths features the two patriarchs of EOTC and in the below reads in Geez “The two have been united by Abiy.” The two are the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in North America, led by the one-time Patriarch of the EOTC, Abune Merkorios and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, led by Abune Mathias. For a political reason, the then Patriarch of EOTC, Abune Merkorios lived in exile for more than two decades.

In his “Breaking Walls and Building Bridges” or “Yemedemer Guzo” visit to U.S.A, PM Abiy had discussion with the exiled Abune. He convinced the Abune to come back to his country. This was unbelievably great news for the Christian population of Ethiopia. During the reunion celebration held at Millennium hall, Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church president told the audience, “Let the world know, Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahido Church is our mother Church. We love Ethiopian Orthodox Church!”

Through Abiy’s effort Ethiopian churches that were divided for more than two decades have become one! This is another reason to praise God.

4. Evangelicals have come out in unity!

I am going to commit to say that Abiy has influenced the Evangelical Fellowship of Ethiopia to unite. I have a reason to say so. There are thousands of protestant denominations in Ethiopia under the umbrella of the Evangelical Churches’ Fellowship of Ethiopia (ECFE) or other fellowships such as Visionary Churches’ Fellowship.

After Abiy came to power two major developments have occurred among the Protestants. The first one is the establishment of Evangelical Leaders of Ethiopia (ELE). There is a good reason to believe that Abiy has influenced the formation of this fellowship either directly or indirectly. This fellowship has united many evangelical leaders.

The second one is the rejoining of some prophets to the ECFE. ECFE’s president Pastor Tsadiku Abdo back in 2017 announced in a press release on the doctrinal, experience related and moral lives of the new churches that were mostly founded by the prophets. Pastor Tsadiku said these churches have failed doctrinally, with related to spiritual experience and their moral lives. Hence, they were rebuked from the fellowship. However, some of the newly opened churches have rejoined the ECFE as “partner churches”. This is even more evidence for the uniting factor of Abiy’s medemer philosophy.

5. Christian Leaders have Come Out in the Front

Although Abiy’s leadership has no favor for Christianity over other religions, unlike other leaders before Abiy has surrounded himself with many Christian leaders. There are great Christian leaders that are very close advisors of the PM. Deacon Daniel Kibret, Dr. Mamusha Fenta, Dr. Gemechis Desta, Dr. Mihret Debebe the list goes on. The influence of these people on the character and decisions of the PM is imminent.

Shouldn’t Christians be grateful then? Yes, we should be! Christian of every sect needs to praise the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the father of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ for the help he provided for the country’s Christianity. His kingdom is holy. His kingdom is coming to Ethiopia.

The Left Home Work

I thank God for the unified evangelicals. I thank God for the unified EOTC synods. I thank God for the love and forgiveness sermons in my country. I thank God for the Abiy himself. We have got someone to thank God for! However, I still feel one task is left.

While praising God for the help he provided, I feel there is yet another homework left for Abiy. Can he unity Christians if all sects into one body? Can Abiy’s summation or medemer philosophy result in Ecumenical unity?

I am a hopeful ecumenist who strives for the unification of the body of Christ. Abiy has doubled my hope that ecumenical unity is possible in my country. With the hope installed in my heart, I simply ask if medemer philosophy can push us one step forward for the unification of Ethiopian churches. Can Abiy create a dialogue among the evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox leaders? Yes, he can. He is the right person to do it. If not Abiy then who?

Of course Abiy is just a man. I know many people recognize his good deeds with some reservations. I do have my own reservations on him too. That’s why I certainly don’t believe the task is left to Abiy alone to unify the churches. It’s our task. This is the best time to stand together. This is the medemer time God provided for the Ethiopian Christians. This is the time to start dialogues on how to come to unity. It’s the right time for our theologians to arise lead the people of God to unity.

As I close my piece, I want to remind the readers that Abiy is a man, and only man standing by the grace of God. Can we lift him up in our prayers? My Orthodox and Catholic brothers, can you dedicate a day to pray for this person in your fasting season? My protestant brothers, can you fast and pray for this person in your fellowship? Who knows, we all might gather next year to praise God together!

 

 

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