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Ethiopian Church followers poised to celebrate Epiphany 

Ethiopian Church _ Epiphany _ 2023
Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch His Holiness Abune Mathias is flanked by Archbishop Abune Henok (left) as Priests carry Tabot. (Photo credit : EOTC Media/file )

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The Ethiopian Church (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church)  is celebrating Epiphany for the next few days.  

In the capital Addis Ababa, it will be celebrated in Janmeda in the Sidist Kilo area.  The laity, choirs, deacons and clergy make a procession to the “timkete  Bahir” where the religious ritual takes place before the water is ready for the believers. 

Epiphany commemorates the baptism of Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan in the hands of John the baptism. 

It is celebrated across Ethiopia but the celebration in Gondar is truly unique in the sense that it is truly colorful. It attracts tourists from across the world. Local news sources reported that on Tuesday alone there were about 23 flights between Addis Ababa and Gondar. 

The Timkat in Gondar also attracts locals from all parts of Ethiopia. Residents in the city offer their homes as in the Christian religious traditions. 

Epiphany is one of the open-air religious celebrations and lasts for three days.  The feast is celebrated in the rest of the Orthodox world. 

Security and politically motivated challenges 

There have been some security incidents and administrative sabotages -especially in the past four or five years. 

There were areas – especially in the Oromia region and SNNPR, where the followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox church were not allowed to celebrate in the venue where it used to be celebrated for generations. 

In the outskirts of Addis Ababa, for example, police last year shot and killed at least one person in the course of a religious procession. It happened in Woybela Mariam. 

These administrative challenges are believed to be politically motivated as the Ethiopian church was painted in a negative light by ethnic nationalist groups – especially ethnic oromo extremists. 

The Ethiopian church says the issue in Woybela Mariam has been resolved and the holiday will be celebrated in the usual venue. Abune Henok, Archbishop of Addis Ababa Diocese, has confirmed it. 

He is of the view that Addis Ababa police and Oromia regional state police have made preparations to ensure that it is celebrated peacefully.

It was not too long ago when the security situation was not too much of a concern in connection with religious celebrations.  That is not the case in recent years. News about Extensive security arrangements has been dominating state media outlets.  

Based on government media outlets reports, there appears to be an attempt to exploit open-air religious celebrations to create a security crisis-like situation. Today, for example, police seized combat-type firearms including a machine gun in the outskirts of Addis Ababa – which is now named Sheger City – a city administration that links a string of six towns surrounding Addis Ababa. 

On the positive side, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church fathers praised cooperation between Ethiopian Muslim Organizations in their support to make the celebration peaceful. 

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