Why silence from religious leaders? Reflection on the indifference of religious organizations in the current Ethiopian crises and tragedy (Girma Berhanu)

By Girma Berhanu (Professor)
February 20,2018

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

“All too often, when we see injustices, both great and small, we think, That’s terrible, but we do nothing. We say nothing. We let other people fight their own battles. We remain silent because silence is easier. Qui tacet consentire videtur is Latin for ‘Silence gives consent.’ When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us.”
― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

(1)Point of departure

Ethiopians are currently affected by untold misery and agonizing but muffled national sorrow. The country’s fate is in the hands of arrogant and murderous groups of people under TPLF leadership. Mass arrest, murder, slaughter, and inhumane treatment of zealous Ethiopians are a common scene. At the time of writing this paper, the killings go on in particular in the Amhara and Oromo regions. But where is the anguished outcry of our spiritual and religious leaders? Where are their voices? Why don’t we hear them condemning the murder of young Ethiopians? One expects the leaders of Ethiopian churches and mosques – all the centers of holy worship where the most fundamental laws of humanity are preached: that murder is wrong, that causing the suffering of others is the deepest profanity against God.

As we all know there is no “military” solution to the current murder business in our country. Ethiopian religious and spiritual leaders both at home and in diaspora need to come out, loud and clear – and repeatedly so – that we are all – every single one of us – children of God and that to murder is to profane the very God they claim to glorify. It’s hard to miss the news today. In Woldia last month, more than 20 unarmed young people died in broad daylight for expressing dissent; hundreds languish in prisons. There are rumors that the prisoners are being exploited as “slave labors”. It is sad that Ethiopian religious leaders and establishments make no effort to make this particular slaughter of innocents a priority. Continued overwhelming silence on the part of our religious leaders is always wrong and will be a catastrophe in the struggle to defend the unity of Ethiopia and sanctity of the lives of young Ethiopians.

In a disaster or national tragedy, religious leaders are frontline, trusted caregivers to whom people look for assistance and support for healing. They are also expected to be the voice of the voiceless. Although the primary function of religious leaders is the care of the soul, which involves showing compassion and empathy for people in times of crisis by offering comfort, support, clarity, direction, and spiritual resources, they are also expected to condemn killings and inhumane treatment and to admonish political leaders for these actions. The current situation in Ethiopia now requires their leadership and guidance primarily to stop the madness orchestrated by the ruling elites’ intent on destroying Ethiopia and creating civil war; secondly they can help create a forum for national reconciliation, stability and sustainable peace. As known, religious and community leaders have the unique position of being able to respond to people who are impacted by injustices and man-made national disasters because they are already in an established role, have a core of relationships, and bring a faith-based perspective.

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