Meskel – One of Ethiopia’s sacred and magnificent open – air religious festivals is overshadowed by the security and political situations in the country. It is poised to be celebrated on Wednsday.
Reports from local news sources seem to indicate that the Ethiopian government has imposed restrictions on how it is celebrated in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. It is clear that the State of Emergency is imposed in the Amhara region of Ethiopia – not in Addis Ababa.
But Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is giving specifications – including the number of people who can attend and what they can or can’t dress. Certainly, unheard of in the history of the country.
Adebabay Media this week quoted Addis Maleda to report that the Addis Ababa City Council of Religious Affairs, Addis Ababa City administration, and heads of churches and monastery abbots to discuss how the Holiday should be celebrated in Addis Ababa.
Based on the report, the religious festival is tailored to the political and security needs of the government rather than respecting the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church follower’s rights of worship.
The laity is restricted from wearing historical Ethiopian national colors. It is going to be strictly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Flag.
Printing and selling of T-Shirts is not allowed too. “Since the holiday is a religious one, not commerce, no printing T-shirts is not allowed,” it is said.
Firework is not allowed. Traditionally, fireworks were not part of the religious festival and its restriction would rather be non-issue.
What sounds rather harsh is the restriction on the number of choirs in uniform to escort the procession to Meskel Square where the festival is celebrated. Only 10,000 Sunday School students are allowed to be in uniform and sing.
Security check arrangement is in place. All those who are heading to Meskel Square will be body searched. As many as 2,304 bonfires will be ready to be lit.
Ethiopian Church fathers have apparently accepted the conditions for the celebration. But followers of the Ethiopian Church do not seem to be too happy about it.
A noticeably considerable number of Ethiopian Church followers tend to think that the ruling Prosperity Party- whose leaders are predominantly said to be the “Prosperity Gospel” brand of Protestant faith – is working to weaken or do away with the Ethiopian Church through the use of government power and “legal system.” The power elites in Ethiopia are said to have hostility – manifested or not – towards the Ethiopian Church. That has certainly added to the political tension in the country.
The Federal government is waging a war in the Amhara region of Ethiopia where a state of emergency is imposed and that is seen as an excuse for the government to demand for the Meskel celebration to be tailored to its needs.
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