O Lord! O Allah!

September 2, 2013

by T.Goshu

Let me make clear first that the very purpose of selecting this very deep and powerful religious supplication as a topic of my comment is neither to preach on a sermon nor to provoke theological discussion. This is not only because I sincerely believe that it is not appropriate for me to mess with this kind of subject, but I also must honestly be clear that I am not the right person to deal with this subject both in terms of knowledge and capacity.

Therefore, the very purpose of this piece of writing of mine is to reflect my opinion about the un-holy partnership or alliance between some “religious leaders” and a bunch of politicians in power in our country; and to express my concern about how the consequence of this unholy cronyism is getting worse, and how it should be dealt with.

For the sake clarity, I want to make a couple of points on the principle of the separation of state and religion enshrined in secular constitutions, including ours. To my understanding, this principle does mean that the two should not intervene in the powers/authorities, responsibilities and duties given by their respective covenants, laws and rules that are regulated by their own respective set up of systems. In other words, as long as their core purposes, functions and services are different (secular and spiritual), it is not acceptable to mess with each other’s core missions and functions. And this principle of course requires the existence of appropriate and well- balanced way of exercising full rights on the one hand, and discharging due responsibilities on the other hand. It is this very critically desirable balancing of the situation that is missing in our case. And it goes without saying that the very root cause for this is the ruling circle that cannot afford to maintain its power without manipulating and exploiting this and all other undesirable situations.

But on the other side of the story, it is terribly wrong to interpret the principle of the separation of state and religion as if they have nothing to share at all. I do not know for what else religion stands for if it does not stand against the deprivation or violation of civil liberty and human dignity. I truly believe that Jesus Christ has shown us how standing against the powers of oppression, hatred, dehumanization or gross violation of God-given rights requires paying an ultimate sacrifice. I also do believe that the very message and mission of Islam through Prophet Muhammad is not different as far as the very core values of the two religions (freedom, peace. love, respect, human dignity and magnanimity and the like) are concerned. Leaving aside the reality of the existence of some/very few elements of extremism or damaging conservatism, on both sides, it is absolutely safe to say that the two religions have a lot to share than to differ. And this is part of our history of togetherness that makes us proud people of Ethiopia.

O God! O Allah! It is now two decades since “our religious leaders” who claim themselves as YOUR messengers began moving in a wrong direction that is totally against what YOU have stood for and have suffered for. They started muddling in mischievous and dangerous politico-religious games by carrying out “coup d’état” of religious authorities fully sponsored and guided by those groupings who controlled/control the political power. They did not stop there. They had to keep seeking the help of their “alliances” (ruling elites) in order, if possible to silence, if not, to go after and crash those who strongly dissent from the ugly interplay of religion and politics. Sadly enough, the innocent followers of the two religions have been left and are still left with a very serious state of confusion. This was in addition to a very terrible confusion about the lines or limits between the functions and duties of a political party and the three branches of government (the legislative or the parliament, the judiciary or the court system and the executive or the administration). It is self-evident that in our case a ruling political party is the supreme authority over the three branches of government. There is no doubt that the state of confusion as the result of miserable mix between religion and politics is getting so horrible and extremely dangerous. It is dangerous not only in terms of damaging our togetherness in the short term, but also in terms of degrading or eroding the very essence of the spiritual and moral values of this generation and the generation to come. And this is seriously disturbing when this is being carried out with unreserved collaboration by those whom we call them Spiritual Fathers (Abatoch). When I say this, I am not saying this is the first phenomenon in the history of the relationship between secular and religious institutions. History, including our own, vividly tells us that it has never been uncommon for the innocent people to go through very treacherous and sometimes deeply deplorable experiences as the result of mixing not only politics as we know but the tyrannical political game with faith or religion. Needless to say, the way “our religious leaders” are making not only themselves but also innocent followers to be victims of unholy politico-religious interplay are gravely disturbing in this 21st century.

O Lord! O Allah! What kind of spiritual leadership crisis is it to watch and hear those “leaders” totally bankrupting their religious mission to the extent of preaching the people to worship the late prime minister, Ato Meles Zenawi as if he was the “true Messiah” of the 21st century for not only Ethiopia, but also for Africa. The Ethiopian people are being inundated with all kinds of nonsensical and outrageous propaganda about the need to carry on the great legacy of “revolutionary democracy “through a more aggressive politico-religious alliance. This very unfortunate part of our history has continued to be one of the most serious challenges we have to deal with. I do not know how it makes any sense to watch those “religious leaders” praising/glorifying the late prime minister and his living cronies who have committed and continue committing all kinds of crimes against humanity in order to perpetuate their political power. It is absolutely hard to comprehend the behavior and practice of those “religious leaders” not showing any sympathy to those innocent citizens who have either been intimidated or harassed, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and sadly enough killed for the simple reason that they demanded for exercising their fundamental freedoms including God-given rights. No doubt, this is the reality the Ethiopian people continue to face.

O Almighty God! O Allah! What a horrible thing to watch the vice president of the Islamic Affairs Council of Addis Ababa (Dr. Mahamad, if I am not mistaken) on ETV accusing the peaceful and legitimate protest by Ethiopian Muslims of engaging in a political movement that is motivated by opposition political forces. He had no any sense of rationale let alone religious personality when he said that he strongly believes that the government showed not acting before it was too late. It was very clear from his dangerously inflammable language that he is one of those persons who are badly victimized by the monstrous politico-religious partnership. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Dr. totally sounds just one of the members of top political cadres of the ruling party who have volunteered them to do any evil-driven political job assigned to them. I wish I could have any other way to express the manner those who totally lost their common human senses behave. Unfortunately, there is no any other sounding reason to define them. Alas! What kind of shocking situation we are facing!

O Savior of the World! O Allah! How it is severely painful to hear and watch those “religious leaders” who preach the innocent followers to recite and live up to the prayer of repentance “O Lord! Have Compassion onto us” going in a complete disarray. Yes, it is absolutely disturbing to watch them being instrumental in orchestrating a senselessly brutal campaign against millions of Ethiopian Muslims who have raised legitimate and remarkably peaceful demands for more than a year. It is very difficult to imagine what the worst we have to expect than witnessing “religious leaders” muddling in a very ugly mix between politics and religion which has of course caused a lot of damage for the last two decades. I strongly argue that there is no something much more painful than seeing those who claim themselves as anointed messengers of God being part of a serious political debacle. Yes, as this very sad way of doing things becomes much more badly, the true spiritual values of prayer for the sake peace, tolerance, love and for the sake of seeing hatred defeated with genuine process of engagement and dialogue gets much more degraded or eroded; and that would of course have serious consequences not only to our struggle for the realization of freedom and justice but also to the very survival of our country.

O Lord! O Allah! How it is so dreadful to watch those “religious leaders” muddling in preparing and conducting “public demonstration against Islamic extremism” on 09/01/13 in Addis Ababa! It is deeply worrisome to watch those “religious fathers (Abatoch)” turning themselves into main protagonists in a political drama produced and directed by a bunch of ruling elites who are getting frustrated as they realized that all other playing cards could not work for them anymore, but they are trying their best to play with a very sensitive issue (religion) as their desperate attempt to stay in power. For this very poor and ugly political theatre, they (the religious leaders) had to organize a two –day Religious Conference with a full guidance and sponsorship of the ruling elites who are getting deeply desperate about how to perpetuate their political power as well as economic control by any means. There was no and there should be no doubt that this horrible political behavior and action was taken A) as a desperate attempt to disrupt, if not crack down the recent political reawakening led by opposition forces such as Semayawi Party ,UDJ/Medrek, All Ethiopian, and the 33. WE have witnessed how the ruling party made anything it could by deploying its army of political cadres and merciless security forces to disrupt the peaceful demonstrations organized by UDJ. Now, it has once again committed a total violation of laws, rules and regulations of its own. It has not only deprived Semayawi Party of the right to exercise its lawful and legitimate rights but most outrageously it has deployed its police force that has not only taken all the party leadership hostage at its own office but sadly enough has committed a horrible intimidation, beatings, arbitrary detention. The police robbed the office of Semayawi Party. After making sure the police have accomplished its dreadful mission, those “religious leaders” were told to go out and display one of the most disgraceful political theatres in the history of the relationship between politics and religion in our country. B) Needless to say, the long-term assumption of the ruling party is to terrorize and resilience the recently courageous and encouraging political reawakening; and by doing so to prolong its political power and its control over the economic and natural resources of the country. As always has been, the critical challenge is the question of what is the way out?
•A lot has been said about the general crisis (political, socio-economic, moral/ethical/religious) in our country almost for the last half a century. Yes, although the way we do things which is still over- dominated by rhetorical engagement seems frustrating, it has to be acknowledged that the ongoing political reawakening led by opposition forces in a relatively well-focused and determined manner is truly encouraging. The demonstrations conducted by UDJ/Andinet in different parts of the country in the face of very brutal challenges from the ruling party; and the patriotic stand taken by the leadership of Semayawi Party last weekend are great testimonies for the reason to be optimistic. And these momenta require the need to move forward wisely and vigorously. For these to be practical , all political groupings , civil rights movements and most importantly all genuinely concerned ordinary citizens should honestly agree that the only way out is through a real sense of concerted, well- preplanned, well-organized/coordinated , self-controlled, persistent and truly passionate and patriotic way of doing things.
•Those “religious leaders” who intentionally or unintentionally involve themselves in very damaging political agenda must unequivocally be told that they need to come back to the real sense of human conscience. They have to strongly be reminded that the Ethiopian people cannot afford to tolerate a mess that terribly disturbs their great culture of togetherness as the result of wrong, if not dangerous mix between politics and religion. They have to be reminded that although we are not fortunate enough to have great religious leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu who have not only preached but truly fought against oppression and injustice; we deserve to have leaders who at least do not stand on our way to freedom and justice. They have to seriously be challenged with what Mahatma Gandhi did to stop the tag of war between Muslims and Hindus and encourage them to stand together for their independence. He fasted for several days to the extent of become unable to get of his bed and join meetings of prayer. One of the writers his biography in a very concise book (Gandhi- His Life and Message for the World -1954), Louis Fischer has quoted Gandhi’s message to that prayer meeting as follows: “Each of us should turn the searchlight inward and purify his or her heart as much as possible. I am convinced that if you purify yourselves sufficiently, you will help India and shorten the period of my fast.” He further stated, “No one can escape death. Then why be afraid of it? In fact death is a friendwhobrings deliverance from suffering.”(Emphasis added).
•I think there is a need to constantly remind ourselves that all what we decide to do, or intended to do emanate from the very state of our mind. So, all what we practice in real life is a function of what we believe in and how we are ready to execute what we believe in. And I want to say that that is exactly what we have witnessed in the case of the leadership of Semayawi Party as far as its compelling reason it stands for is concerned. And that powerful reason is the commitment to fight against injustice with an unfolding struggle that is in line with the observance of justice and rule of law. It should not be governed by the free will of the ruling elites who stupidly disregard or grossly violate the laws and regulations displayed right on their desks. This resilient and courageous effort has to move forward with a more aggressive but wise, matured and well-guided way of doing things.
•I sincerely believe that there is a compelling reason to significantly control, if not avoid unhealthy or abnormal tag of war among all genuinely concerned political opposition parties or human rights advocacy groups. This badly requires the need to engage in critical but constructive and forward –looking conversation and dialogue among all opposition forces that have stake in the process of the struggle. I want to stress here that all our criticism should be extended and expressed in such a way that our common causes (freedom and justice) could be advanced, not retarded.

Let me conclude by saying that with all our difficulties and challenges, there is no doubt the legitimate causes the people stand for will prevail. But it must equally be underscored that it will be a serious mistake to prolong the sufferings of the people because of not doing what we can and should do.

posted by Daniel tesfaye


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