|0.8%||United Arab Emirates|
TERRORISM IN ETHIOPIA
|Symposium on religious tolerance|
|Written by MOFA|
|Saturday, 02 June 2012 17:16|
Symposium on religious tolerance
A day-long symposium dedicated to discussion of contemporary challenges to religious tolerance was held here on Monday at the newly inaugurated Africa Union Conference hall. The symposium was organized by the joint effort of the Ministry of Federal Affairs, the African Union, the Council of Ethiopian Religious Institutions, Nejashi Ethio-Turkish International School and Turkish Airlines. Dr. Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister of Federal Affairs and Professor Andreas Eshete, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister as well as academics, representatives of religious institutions and other stakeholders attended.
Four academic papers were presented followed by a panel discussion on various issues raised by the research papers. Reflecting the Turkish initiative for the symposium, a main focus of the papers and the discussions was on sharing the Turkish experiences in nurturing religious tolerance in a pluralistic society.
Dr. Abdullah Anteplelli, Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University in America, in a paper entitled “Co-existence and Harmony in a pluralistic World: the Gulen Movement as a world model” discussed the activities and achievements of the Gulen Movement in Turkey and around the globe. The Gulen Movement, named after Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish scholar acclaimed for his new approach to the role of education, science, economics, and social justice in fostering religious tolerance, is actively engaged in encouraging dialogue on cross-cutting issues of religious tolerance among the various denominations attending Turkish International Schools. Taking its cue from his philosophy that puts poverty, ignorance and lack of unity as the three major foes of religious tolerance, the Gulen movement strives to encourage unity through dialogue, and discussion.
Professor Thomas Mikel of Georgetown University in his paper also discussed the practical achievements of Turkish International Schools in teaching Gulen’s philosophy. Teaching and encouraging practices of respect, rapprochement and dialogue with peers of other religious denominations, Turkish schools around the world have achieved commendable results as can be seen in their increasing appeal in various countries including Ethiopia. As a panacea to challenges of extremism in Ethiopia, Professor Thomas recommended Gulen’s philosophy. Ignorance in particular he noted as one of the factors that endanger tolerance.
Dr. Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister of Federal Affairs was also one of the panellists who presented a paper: “New Religious Chapter in Ethiopia: The New FDRE constitution and practice”. This discussed the history of religious tolerance in Ethiopia and emerging challenges to its age-old tradition of toleration. Dr. Shiferaw discussed religious tolerance among Ethiopian Christian and Muslim communities and explained in detail the unique tradition of building churches and mosques in unison, and in close proximity with the harmonious interaction of followers of both religions in local social institutions providing symbolic practices from which the world could learn a lot. He underlined the point: “No World history can beat the long co-existence and mutual understanding of Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia. At a simplified level, I can say Muslims and Christians coexisted and mutually understood each other”. He did however note that this tradition which had lasted for over 1400 years was now facing challenges from the advance of extremist teachings.
Dr. Shiferaw said he largely concurred with Gulen’s philosophy. Ignorance, poverty and the absence of unity were factors that bred extremism in Ethiopia as elsewhere in other parts of the world. In addition to these factors, the Ethiopian experience has shown that agents bent on disrupting this tradition for political ends are by far the most important element in causing harm. In Ethiopia, in the past 21 years and following the enactment of the constitution, freedom of religion is provided with a constitutional guarantee. Since then, citizens are free to follow, practice and proselytize the religion of their choice. In fact, with the rich culture of tolerance and constitutionally protected freedom of religion, there was no situation on the ground that called for dissent and extremism was virtually nonexistent. In other words, the rise of extremism in Ethiopia cannot be linked to any restrictions on religious freedom. However, some have made religion a cloak for unconstitutional political ends. These groups “mislead followers by non-stop fabrications without any respect to other religious institutions, they use material rewards and use all forms of intimidation including social pressure” to erode the traditions of religious tolerance, cemented as they have been by a history of friendly social and religious interaction between traditional Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia for over a thousand years.
Pastor Degu Zerihun of the Council of Ethiopian Religious Institutions also presented a paper on the ethos of religious tolerance in Ethiopia, citing anecdotes from the rich history of Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia. Professor Andreas Eshete read a message to participants from Prime Minister Meles who thanked the Government of Turkey for its activities in the area of religious tolerance.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 10 June 2012 15:05|