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The War on Tigray heightens schism in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church based in Addis Abeba and its followers have been behind the war on Tigray. On 17 November, the patriarchate convened in response to Abiy Ahmed’s call for all sections f society to support his war on Tigray.



The Ethiopian Orthodox Church based in Addis Abeba and its followers have been behind the war on Tigray. On 17 November, the patriarchate convened in response to Abiy Ahmed’s call for all sections f society to support his war on Tigray. The patriarchate expressed its support. Ever since then, the church has not expressed any concern regarding the destruction of monasteries and churches and the massacres of Christians in churches and outside churches.

Similarly, christian associations and interest groups have been active supporters of the war. Prominent individual from powerful association like Mahbere Kidusan have been active supporters of the war.

As a result of this, a latent schisms between Tigrayan Christians and what Tigrayans call an Amhara patriarchate and associations in Addis Abeba has started to be intense.

Two recordings show the magnitude of the schism. One is of a Mahbere Kidusan meeting in Mekelle. Mahbere Kidusan is a powerful politico-religious association that covertly and openly works for Amhara supremacy.

It is not clear when the meeting occurred, but from the content, it is recent. It is also not clear who is chairing the meeting, but the participants see the chairing people as representative of the Amhara church in Addis Abeba. The Tigrayan participants accused of the association and its members of supporting the war, being a political Amhara association. The Tigrayans said they would not like to be a part of such association any more. Some said they will work to eradicate Mahbere Kidusan from Tigray. The participants also added that, now, there is no Tigrayan that is not aware of the political nature of the patriarchate in Addis Ababa and the church associations, particularly of Mahbere Kidusan, implying no Tigrayan Christian will like to associate themselves with such partisan patriarchate and associations.

Another recording was aired by Mahbere Kidusan youtube channel. Biniam, a Tigrayan member of Mahbere Kidusan talks about the sadness of Tigrayan Christians with respect to how the Church and Christians outside Tigray have reacted to the war and its devastation. He said the Church has lost Tigrayan christians for they don’t want to be a part of it any more.

It is to be remembered that when Ethiopian elders visited Mekelle for supposedly peace talks, Tigrayan religious leaders rejected a meeting with them citing the former had supported the war on Tigray.

A schism in the Ethiopian church is common. There has always been a difference between the Tigrayan churches and the various Amhara divisions. The churches in Amhara have always been part and parcel of Amhara’s political expansion and subjugation of other peoples. It was Emperor Yohannes IV who convened a conference in the 19th century bringing an end, at least temporarily, to the the schism in the church. But those Schism are now on the rise again, as churches in Gojam have resumed their previous ideological beliefs, and Tigrayan Christians do not want to belong to what they consider an Amhara political church.

It is also to be remembered that in 15th century, Tigray monks, the Dekike Estifanos, started a powerful movement opposing new introductions in the church by an Amhara king. Their movement spread to monasteries and churches in all of Tigray and beyond and became a powerful movement that shook the empire. The Dekike Estifanos were eventually exterminated with brute force and barbarity, but they have still fellowship in Tigray, and with current developments, this will likely grow.

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  1. Concerned Tigraway

    March 17, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    Recently, I have seen a youtube program inviting Tegarus to say a word and share thier view about future collaboration between Tigray Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church. I would like to share my personal views here.

    In the first place, it is the duty and responsiblity of our church fathers to establish ties with other sister Orthodox churches (Oriental Orthodox Churches) or even with other church for religious , educational,and adminstrative matters.

    As far as I am concerned , I have seen Russian Church clergy members who attend Catholic church religious institutions. This shows that we could still work with others when it come to the development of our church and educate our clergy men with other churches without altering the dogmatic and tradtional elements that are unique to our church Tegarus. I Have seen considerable difference among Oriental orthodox churches. I guess, culture and other traditional constituents affect they way these sister Oriental Orthodox churches differ among each other. THe catholic , protestant and Orthodox church members in overseas do differ from thse same churches based at home.
    Because each are affected by the tradtion, culture oriented matters tehy adhere to. . Hence, Donot expect to see tottaly the same tradtional and ecclessiastical elements in the Coptic church that align with our churches.
    Coptic Church has good financial and adminstration capacity and we could import those skills , they might help us in developping our churches , monasteries or in the publication of our sacred Books and Tigrigna and geez version of Holy BIble , Etc ….

    They have also biblical schools , professors and scholars that could help us if we work with the Coptic church and other churches; Unless someone has expertise in this area collecting ideas from Tegarus willnot be that much important as for me. because this kind of issue is not something related to giving a vote to elect a leader or candidate to govern the people of Tigray. It is about to choose a religious entity that could help our church to grow its financial capacity, educate its religous staffs and reconstruct our land , relmigiuous and secular public insfrastuctures.

    This is my personal opinion and I am open and ready accept to any kind of critisims or correction;

    Thank you

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