Ethiopian church demands apology from Addis Ababa City Administration

Addis Ababa City Administration admits “mistake” for not consulting with Ethiopian Church over Meskel Square project. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church demands apology for ignoring the Church’s ownership right over Meskel Square.

Ethiopian Church _ Meskel Square
Patriarch Abune Mathias and Haji Mufi. Photo /File. Credit Addis Ababa City.

May 1, 2020

Last week, Addis Ababa City Administration launched what it called the “Meskel Square-Municipality” project – a major construction project. A little earlier than that, the City passed a decision to move the vegetable and fruits market to Janmeda under the guise of preventing Coronavirus transmission.

Both the construction project and relocation of the market center affected the property of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church which it uses for major religious holidays including Timkat and Meskel – which are registered as a world heritage with UNESCO.

The Ethiopian Church has been using these properties for Meskel and Timkat celebrations since the establishment of Addis Ababa as the capital of Ethiopia.

The City project over Meskel Square involved some demolition work but The Ethiopian Church was not consulted about it.

With the intent to get clarification, the Church wrote a letter (which is shared on Adebabay Media) to the Office of the Mayor. A copy of the letter was sent to the office of the Prime Minister, too.

“The Church is disappointed that the City administration is working on an unclear project without consulting with the Church,” reads translation of the letter which is written in Ethiopia’s official language.

The letter also noted that the two religious festivals of the Ethiopian Church, which has now over 50 million followers in the country, do have significance beyond religion and culture. The UNESCO registered intangible heritages generate revenue for the government as the events attract tens of thousands of tourists.

“In Consideration of the gravity of the matter, we would like the Mayor’s Office to pay special attention to the letter and respond appropriately and urgently.”

On Thursday in the evening, Takele Uma, the acting Mayor, sent delegates to the patriarchate in a response to the letter from the church, as reported by Wazema Radio.

 Nebiyu Baye, an advisor to the Mayor, led the delegation composed of the city’s architecture advisor, construction office head, and Plan Commission head, according to the Wazema Report.

During the meeting between the delegates and Ethiopian Church which was represented by Abune Yared, the latter asked the delegates why the City administration ignored the church when embarking on its “beautifying Addis Ababa project?.” The church also demanded to know the fundamental purpose of the project.

City representatives reportedly admitted that the administration erred when launching the Meskel square project without having a discussion about it with the church.

The city representatives also claimed that the “purpose of the project is to make the place attractive so that it can be used for the next Meskel celebration. The decision on Janmeda was, said delegates, made in an emergency mode due to the COVID 19 situation.

Ethiopian Church demanded an official apology from the city administration for the mistake they made and also a written guarantee that the Ethiopian Church’s right will not be infringed upon in the future in connection with the use of the two places for religious purposes.

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