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Interfaith Peacebuilding

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January 2019
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Interfaith Programs

Meeting with the Interreligious Council of Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - An interfaith delegation from UPF-Europe visited Ethiopia July 9 and 10 to promote interreligious dialogue and cooperation between people of different faiths. In partnership with the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia, UPF-Ethiopia organized an interfaith meeting with them on July 10.

Last year, Mr. Robert Williamson, Director of the Balkans region of UPF-Europe, led a European interfaith group that visited Zambia and Uganda. The tour was so fruitful that they added Ethiopia this year. The delegation included Sheikh Aftikhar Ahmad, Halal Committee Chair of the Central Mosque in Glasgow, Scotland; Mrs. Shazia Nadeem, a Muslim leader from Scotland; Mr. Paul Curie of UPF-Scotland; Gabriella Spagna of UPF-Bulgaria; and Robert Williamson's son Eric.

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The Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia helped by facilitating the meeting. Gathering leaders from different faiths around the same table is not easy in Ethiopia, where 60 percent of the people are Christians and 40 percent Muslims. Among the Christians, Orthodox are the leading group followed by Catholics, Protestants, and Adventists.

Formed last year, the Inter-Religious Council includes Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Adventist Christians as well as Muslims. After many changes of dates, the meeting was finally set for July 10. Participants included:

  • ABUNA PAULOS I, Patriarch of the ORTHODOX TEWAHIDO CHURCH OF ETHIOPIA, represented by his delegates
  • SHEIKH AHMEDINE SHEIKH ABDULAHI, President of the Supreme Muslim Council of ETHIOPIA
  • ABUNE BERHANEYESUS D. SOURAPHIEL, CM. President of Catholic Bishops’ conference of ETHIOPIA
  • Rev. ALEMU SHEITTA, General Secretary of the ETHIOPIAN EVANGELICAL CHURCH FELLOWSHIP
  • Pastor ALEMU HAILE of the Adventist churches of ETHIOPIA

We were also honored by the presence of Dr. SHIFFERAW TEKLE MARIAM, Minister of FEDERAL AFFAIRS.

At the request of the INTER-RELIGIOUS COUNCIL, the meeting was held in the BLUE SALOON of GHION HOTEL, one of the biggest hotels of ETHIOPIA. The event was covered by reporters from ETHIOPIAN television and AFRO FM radio. There were 120 participants at the meeting.

The program was held under the banner of: “FAITHS WORKING TOGETHER TO BUILD A WORLD OF UNIVERSAL PEACE AT A TIME OF GLOBAL CHANGE.” As much as possible, the program was conducted in both Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia) and English, although all religious leaders and many participants could speak English.

Pastor ZERIHUN introduced the RELIGIOUS LEADERS, and each of them offered an invocation. Then the Chairman of INTER-RELIGIOUS COUNCIL welcomed the international visitors and all the participants. He mentioned the significance of this meeting not only for Ethiopia but for the entire region. After that, he introduced the INTER-RELIGIOUS COUNCIL of ETHIOPIA and its achievements.

Rev. Sue Eun RYOO, Sub-Regional Leader for UPF-Northeast AFRICA, introduced UPF:

“UPF has been doing a lot of work in ETHIOPIA since its foundation day. UPF has been conducting a lot of rallies in different cities to teach and show all of us we are one human family regardless of race, nationality, or religion. We need to form on earth ONE FAMILY UNDER GOD. This ideal is possible when each of us cultivates the seed of love inside of us, in our family, and in the nation…. Today, respected religious leaders, your names are included in this list, and this proves you have already shown yourselves as models of peace for ETHIOPIA.”

We showed the video “UPF IN REVIEW,” which shows the activities of UPF throughout the world, especially interfaith dialogue in the Middle East. Then Robert Williamson presented an overview of the Principles of Unification. Some of the his main points were:

“…we all are human beings sharing the same values and common grounds. Whatever we give the name to our CREATOR according to our religion, culture, or language, there is only ONE CREATOR and He is the Creator of all human beings whether we are Christians, Orthodox, Muslims, Buddhists, etc… As GOD’S CHILDREN, we are to resemble HIM. When we look at ourselves or we look at the world, we can honestly say we are very far from resembling our CREATOR. GOD invested HIS HEART to create this world. GOD is the Origin of TRUE LOVE. TRUE LOVE means giving and giving without cease. GOD has given us HIS LOVE so that we can share HIS TRUE LOVE with each other. The question is what have we done of HIS TRUE LOVE? Most of the time, the LIFE we are living is selfish. All of us, we want to come closer to our CREATOR, hence,  to resemble HIM, we need to live an unselfish life and that is LIVING FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. This heavenly law is also written in all HOLY SCRIPTURES….”

Afterwards Dr. SHIFFERAW, Minister of FEDERAL AFFAIRS, congratulated the religious leaders:

“… When each of our religious fathers was praying, it was hard for me to identify the difference. Was it for you too?  Well, I think this testifies one thing: that what we have been learning here today is true. We are all the same, and we invoke the same GOD. SATAN’s work is division, he wants to divide humans but GOD’s work is to bring together all human beings. If we are united, then there cannot be division or conflict for we will be accepting each other as brother and sister. This is definitely true and logical. Our guests are from different faiths and they have come from far to prove we can live and co-exist peacefully and practice our faith respectfully.

I would like to mention three main elements our government's constitution: freedom of religion, equality between all religions, and respect and tolerance between religions. Our government has elaborated a five-program to get rid of Poverty and place ETHIOPIA among the middle-developed countries of the world. To sustain this program, peace is crucial in our nation. Without peace, we cannot reach the level we want to have. And peace starts from each one of us, in our community, in our religion and in our nation. We have to maintain peace in our beloved nation. This is our country's development capital. You religious fathers are giving good examples as peacekeepers to the people of your nation. Please keep in this way.”

Ambassador for Peace certificates were presented to the religious leaders.

The Representative of ABUNA PAULOS I, Patriarch of the ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHIDO CHURCH, said:

“… ETHIOPIA is a land of history. She is rich in historical religion. Religion has been rooted in the culture of ETHIOPIA for centuries. The story of the Queen of SHEBA and King SOLOMON is even written in the Old TESTAMENT. Today, many people are coming from abroad to visit our historical sites such as the BUILT IN ROCK CHURCH OF LALIBELA and also GONDAR, AXUM. This to say we need to have respect for our religion in ETHIOPIA. This to say we have to be grateful to GOD for His BLESSING because this is a BLESSING. If we want to keep His BLESSING, we need to follow His WILL and Commandments. His HOLY WILL is that He wants us to live peacefully, lovingly, and respectfully with each other. That’s it. If we live so, then definitely we will bring peace on Earth. On behalf of HIS HOLINESS, ABUNA PAULOS I, I would like to say I am so grateful to you all for your commitment for Peace in ETHIOPIA, PEACE in the Region and PEACE IN THE WORLD. HIS HOLINESS is a PRESIDENT OF RELIGIONS FOR PEACE. The title of AMBASSADOR FOR PEACE definitely confirms HIS HOLINESS, since our Respected Father is not only concerned about peace but is dedicated to bring PEACE all over the world. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.”

Sheikh AHMEDINE SHEIKH ABDULAHI, President of the Supreme Muslim Council of ETHIOPIA, said:

“…Today, I have learned many things, and I guess you all did also. It was brilliant. Our guests have come to a historic country, known for its history of religions and history of cultures. You know the history of ISLAM in ETHIOPIA. There is one fact I want to mention here. We Muslims were persecuted during the recent military regime because it was a communist regime. Today, we are so grateful to our government, for we have our place in the nation of ETHIOPIA. This proves there is freedom of faith. The rest is up to each one of us. We are to respect each other whatever our faith. In this way, we can live peacefully.”

ABUNE BERHANEYESUS D. SOURAPHIEL, CM, President of Catholic Bishops’ conference of ETHIOPIA, said:

“…I want to thank the guests who have come far from ENGLAND and SCOTLAND… It is kind of you to dedicate a tour for INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE in AFRICA. We appreciate very much what we have learnt from you. It is absolutely true that all human beings are brothers and sisters and, therefore, one family. I’d like here to remind something: did you know you have come to the land of your ancestors? I think you heard about LUCY. Researchers into prehistory have discovered that LUCY is more than 3 million years old, and she is the ancestor of all humankind. So, you have come in the land of your ancestors and you are all welcome. You are back home. (Laughter.) We honestly appreciate what UPF is doing to bring everlasting peace. Please keep on doing your great work."

Rev. ALEMU SHEITTA, General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Fellowship, said:

“…We have, now, become AMBASSADORS FOR PEACE. This doesn’t mean our work or our responsibility is ending here. Instead, this means we have to do more for peace: peace in our beloved nation, peace in the region, and peace all over the world. Jesus told us in the GOSPEL a person is recognized by his fruits; likewise, we recognize a good tree by the fruits it gives. This implies we are to bear fruits of love and fruits of peace among each other. This is how JESUS wants us to live if we want to be called his disciples. Isn’t it so? So, we have to be thankful to JESUS for the LOVE he has shown us. Let us do our best to change this world into a world of peace.”

Pastor ALEMU HAILE, Pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Churches of ETHIOPIA, said:

“…Brothers and sisters, we have to prepare our heart to receive JESUS; LOVE. We have to awaken ourselves from sleeping. We think we are well awakened but we aren’t. Why am I saying that? We have to be aware that there are people who oppose others because of many differences, mostly related to FAITH. Those people cannot come from our Creator. Yes, I admit we have differences of rites or practices, but we have to use them like our wealth. Our differences are our wealth. This is what makes ETHIOPIA unique. We have so many different ethnicities, cultures, languages, and faiths but we are all co-existing peacefully and respectfully. ETHIOPIA can truly be a model nation of PEACE for the region, but as I already said, we have to prepare or open our heart to receive LOVE and to give LOVE. Yes, in this way, we can live an unselfish life. I would like to thank our guests who have come to share their knowledge about peace with us.”

Mrs. SHAZIA NADEEM was chosen to close the ceremony with a short speech:

“...AS SALAM WE ALEIKUM, distinguished guests. This is my first experience of being in AFRICA and ETHIOPIA. We have truly received a warm welcome from you all here. I am sure you are reflecting the warm welcome and hospitality your beautiful nation offers. I have no doubt this is certainly rooted in the culture of ETHIOPIA. We thank you very much for making us feel at home…. PEACE and UNITY are two important issues. PEACE and UNITY are related to each other. One cannot go without the other. Unity brings peace, and peace without unity is weak or even cannot exist. All of us wish to see all human beings living happily, peacefully, and in prosperity. From this perspective, unity between peoples whatever their race, nationality, or religion is essential. With unity, we can overcome our barriers, our differences. Hence, we can live as one human family. This event today not only brings people and communities together but also helps us sit together and share our common values. This is INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE or cooperation. We need to promote DIALOGUE. It brings different faiths together. And that is the most vital for WORLD PEACE AND HARMONY. This is precisely what we are promoting through our tour in AFRICA."

The imam was invited to offer a prayer of gratitude to Allah for having conducted the program under His protection and guidance. Then, the Minister of Federal Affairs and the religious leaders greeted and thanked the UPF guests.

At 1:00 pm, participants were directed to the buffet lunch prepared by the Ghion Hotel.

Afterwards, Mr. PAUL CURIE said: “Today, I learned something. I learned Lucy is my ancestor. I didn’t know my roots are in Africa. Now, I know I’m African although I am white. Well, yes, I’m back home.”

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