Sectarian Wars: The Case of Ethiopia

News of the latest ‘Islamic State’ (IS) execution of 30 Ethiopian ChristiansImage credit: BBC in Libya should be something to be worried about. For a long time, Ethiopia, America’s lynchpin in the Horn of Africa and the diplomatic capital of the continent, hosting as it does the Africa Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, has been a bastion of relative stability. Ethiopians have prided themselves in controlling the sectarian ructions that have been tearing other Middle East, North African (MENA) states apart. Apart from an ongoing issue with their local Somali population, Christian and Muslim Ethiopians generally treat each other well. As one dear friend in Adelaide told me, every Christian Ethiopian family has Muslim members and every Muslim Ethiopian family has Christian members. And while this is seen by some as a badge of honour in a world gone mad, especially when viewed in the light of the ethnic and sectarian bloodshed in neighbouring Sudan and Kenya, there are those who would try to scupper this peace. Those who believe in the ideology of the Islamic State and other hardcore jihadist groups. For them there can be no peace between Christians and Muslims, Jews and Muslims and within the greater Muslim ‘family’ between Sunni and Shia. Islamic State and associated groups believe they are caught up in a Manichean struggle at the end of which there will only be one winner. However, for the true believers in the Koran, there is no passage that states, condones or encourages wanton violence against people ‘of the book’, neither Christians nor Jews. Furthermore, those remotely familiar with the Koran will know that Ethiopian Christians sheltered the Prophet Mohammed while he sought refuge from the then pagan forces of Mecca and for this and the kindness shown by the Ethiopian Christian King, the Negus, the Prophet said: Leave the Abyssinians (Ethiopians) alone, so long as they do not take the offensive”. If ever there was proof that the philosophy of IS and fellow travellers on the jihadist path, do not understand their own faith, then this certainly is it. They should ask themselves a couple of simple questions such as: ‘would the Prophet agree to their actions? Would He sanctify the carnage being done in His name?’ If the answer is no, then obviously this fight is not of a religious nature. It is a perversion of religion. It is based on violence and the destruction of peace and tolerance, leaving but a wasteland in its wake. It is designed to provoke hatred by which the ‘apex’ of God’s creation – Man – washes in the blood of his brother and his neighbour. This is not the teaching of the Prophet. It is the craven calling of ambitious men, men of politics who think that they can use religion to serve their personal biases and agendas.

If Ethiopia is allowed to slide into the abyss of sectarian war, the outcome will be the reverse of what Prophet Mohammed desired for Abyssinia; it will destroy a bastion of stability in the Horn of Africa, fuel and escalate the warring that we see in neighbouring Yemen, draw in what is left of Somalia, and quite possibly igniting a renewed war with Eritrea. The entire east African littoral might very well be set ablaze. Hardly an outcome that any people of any religious persuasion might think worthy or good.

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