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Ethiopia : Muslim-Christian Relations , By David Shinn

By David Shinn

Historical Background

The Muslim-Christian relationship in Ethiopia has a mixed historical background. Ethiopia is located on a religious fault line, although the relationship between the two religions has been reasonably cordial in recent decades.

Christian rule has prevailed in the Ethiopian highlands since the early 4th century. Early in the 7th century a group of Arab followers of Islam in danger of persecution by local authorities in Arabia took refuge in the Axumite Kingdom of the Ethiopian highlands. As a result of this generosity, the Prophet Mohammed concluded that Ethiopia should not be targeted for jihad.

Not all Muslims took this message seriously; subsequent contact was less cordial. In the late 15th century, Islamic raids from the Somali port of Zeila plagued the Ethiopian highlands. In the first half of the 16th century, the Islamic threat became more serious when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi rallied a diverse group of Muslims in a jihad to end Christian power in the highlands. The Ethiopians finally defeated this threat by the middle of the 16th century.Read More…



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