Churches in Ethiopia Come Together For Peace

Ethiopian churches prayer photo by Ivars Kupcis 30112023 03
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Representatives from Ethiopia’s three major churches—the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, and Ethiopian Catholic Church—came together with the aim of enhancing ecumenical collaboration “to address humanitarian needs and promote peace and social cohesion in Ethiopia,” according to the meeting’s released minutes.

Facilitated by the World Council of Churches and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, the high-level delegations discussed the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

The minutes outlined the nature of the proposed council of churches, emphasizing that it should not be an exclusive club, avoiding institutionalized division within the body of Christ. Simultaneously, it cannot be open to all without clear criteria and expectations. A task force has been appointed to advance the establishment of this new structure.

The meeting was led by church delegations represented by H.G. Archbishop Petros, the general secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; Rev. Dr. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa, the president of the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus; and H.E. Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. The church leaders signed a resolution document, demonstrating their dedication to the new process and structure.

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Mtata, the WCC program director of Public Witness and Diakonia, reflected on the significant moment for both the WCC and the ecumenical movement. He emphasized that, in the face of the humanitarian crisis and conflict in Ethiopia, the churches recognized the imperative to strengthen unity and committed themselves to establishing a national council of churches—a monumental step for ecumenism and a cause for celebration within the WCC and the broader ecumenical movement.

Reflecting on years of discussions on forming a new structure and revitalizing the vision of ecumenical unity, Rev. Dr. Yonas Yigezu Dibissa expressed joy in embarking on the journey as a national council of churches. He emphasized the commitment to addressing the situation in Ethiopia collectively, marking the signing of the document as a tangible sign of their dedication.

Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, commended the high-level representatives of the three churches for taking crucial steps toward formalizing ecumenical cooperation in Ethiopia. He highlighted the historical breakthrough and the commitment to revive an earlier ecumenical partnership for humanitarian response, sending a powerful signal about the importance of unity in confronting adversity.

In a closing prayer at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, the participants expressed gratitude for the gift of reconciliation and unity in Christ. They prayed for the efforts made toward building peace and realizing reconciliation in Ethiopia, envisioning a reconciled community where repentance and forgiveness serve as common languages, and collective joy and sorrow become shared experiences.

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