Sunday, April 08, 2012

You Gotta Have Faith

Easter Sunday all over the Christian world, but Palm Sunday here in Orthodox Ethiopia. The
priest’s prayers resonate over Piazza, the area of Addis Ababa where my friends live. We have one more week of fasting and such before the big Easter day. I will be spending it in Lalibela, one of the oldest Christian sites in all of Ethiopia. Famous for its churches dug out of rock, there will many a pilgrim there next week. Looking forward to that.
It’s amazing to find out that Ethiopia is the second country in the world to adopt
Christianity (Armenia being the first) way back in 300 AD. To think that here people have been worshipping for more centuries than almost anyone else is amazing. When I reflect upon that, I think of the Catholics and other Christians who think they are so high and mighty and that they are superior
to any other Christians, but you know what? The Ethiopians have been doing it longer, and they are devout and not prideful in their worship. There is serenity, a calm when entering a church here and something special watching people pray. It is welcoming and yet distant in some way. Still the centuries-old faith that is practiced by the majority of the population never ceases to put me in awe. The frescoes and
icons in the churches are just spectacular, as are the churches themselves. I’ve only been in two, yet in each one I feel such peace, as if I am at home.
Notwithstanding, Islam plays an important role in Ethiopia as well. It came along 300 years
after Christianity, and serves a decent proportion of the population. While churches dot the Addis skyline more than mosques, Christians and Muslims work and live side by side and seem to get on well with each other. Accoridng to my friend Bob, there doesn’t seem to be animosity between the two groups. I’m sure they have their scuffles but for the most part all is well.
Yesterday we visited the Trinity Church, also known as Haile Selassie’s church since he worshipped there and is buried there next to his wife Empress Menan. It’s such a beautiful
church and the time of day we visited, the lighting was just perfect to make it memorable. The stained glass windows, the altar, the large tombs of the last emperor and empress of Ethiopia, the quiet of
the place, it definitely was wonderful. They were gearing up for the Palm Sunday celebrations outside by hanging bunting in Ethiopian flag colours, assembling canopies and putting up palm fronds everywhere. This is only the second church I’ve been in here, but this coming week I will be churched out when I head up to Aksum, Gondar, and Lalibela—that’s the heart of Ethiopian Christianity.
Faith, it’s something everyone needs—it brings us together and breaks us apart. The more I
travel around the world, the more I know that all religions are right, not one is better than the other, and that God is one. It doesn’t matter if we pray 5 times a day, go to church once a week, visit a temple daily, as long as it makes sense to us as individuals, it’s all good. The roads are different, the destination is the same. Such are my thoughts on Palm Sunday here in Addis. Now I must see to breakfast.

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