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The Heartbeat of a Nation: Pondering the Absence of our Flag at Meskel

Meskel bonfire at Addis Ababa, September 26, 2023 (Photo source : AP)

(Essayias Lesanu)

To all Ethiopians, a heartfelt Enkutatash and Meskel greeting. As the New Year dawns and the season of Meskel brings its unique spiritual aura, it is a time to reflect, celebrate, and also address some disconcerting issues that have surfaced in our beloved nation. The Meskel Festival, recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage, is more than just a religious event. It is a testament to our nation’s unity, identity, and the spirit of Ethiopianess.

Yet, this year, while watching the Meskel celebrations at Meskel Square, a glaring absence was evident: the Ethiopian flag. The vibrant Green, Yellow, and Red, which have stood as emblems of our pride, identity, and history, were conspicuously missing. Rumors have been circulating that the current administration is discouraging the display of our national flag. And it was disheartening to see that these rumors might bear some truth.

The absence of the flag during the Meskel celebrations not only challenges the national narrative but also raises questions about our national identity. What is Meskel without Ethiopia? And what is Ethiopia without its rich traditions like Meskel? For many, the two are inseparable. The understated presence of a minuscule flag, tucked away to one side, was hardly a saving grace. It left many feeling as if Meskel was celebrated in a foreign land, stripping away its Ethiopian essence.

The silence from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Archbishops on this matter was equally disconcerting. Their nonchalant attitude towards the lack of our national emblem during one of the holiest celebrations casts a shadow over the Church’s role in preserving Ethiopian traditions and identity.

Ethiopia’s rich history, often embodied in figures like King Menelik and Emperor Haile Selassie, has been the subject of scrutiny, misinterpretation, and false narratives by some factions. But witnessing the very essence of Ethiopianess being eroded in such public and profound ways is unsettling. The increase in ethnic-centered politics and narratives is dividing the nation further. Reports from the Amhara region of conflicts and innocent lives lost add to the growing list of concerns.

In these trying times, a passage from the Book of Jeremiah echoes the heavy hearts of many Ethiopians: “My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me.” This profound sentiment from the prophet Jeremiah reflects the deep sorrow and concern that many feel for Ethiopia’s future. The erosion of our national identity and heritage, combined with the growing internal strife, makes one wonder about the path our beloved country is on. Like Jeremiah, who mourned for his people and warned them of impending challenges, it’s essential for Ethiopians to recognize the signs, unite, and navigate toward a more harmonious and prosperous future.

We are at a crossroads. While traditions like Meskel are a reminder of our deep-rooted history and identity, the current challenges beckon us to come together, embrace our shared heritage, and work towards ensuring the heart and soul of Ethiopia remains strong and unscathed.

Our beloved Ethiopia has always been a beacon of culture, history, and unity in the Horn of Africa. From the ancient Kingdom of Axum to the modern-day Federal Republic, our nation has withstood challenges, invasions, and internal strife to emerge stronger and united. The resilient spirit of Ethiopians is echoed in our music, dance, literature, and festivals like Meskel. But today, that unity and spirit are under threat.

The flag, with its bright Green, Yellow, and Red, symbolizes more than just a nation. It represents the blood of those who fought for our independence, the beauty of our landscapes, and the hope for a better tomorrow. Its absence during the Meskel celebrations is symptomatic of a deeper malaise, of a nation grappling with its identity amidst political upheavals and ethnic tensions.

The questions arise: Have we, as a nation, lost sight of what binds us together? Are we letting divisive politics overshadow our shared history and heritage? And most importantly, are we doing enough to safeguard the ethos of Ethiopianess for our future generations?

It’s not just about the flag or the Meskel celebrations. It’s about the stories we tell our children, the values we uphold, and the vision we have for Ethiopia. Every nation faces challenges, but it’s how we address these challenges that define our character and destiny. The lamentations of Jeremiah should serve as a reminder that inaction and complacency can lead to regret. It’s a call to introspection, to reevaluate our priorities, and to work collaboratively towards a united and prosperous Ethiopia.

Now, more than ever, we need to lean into our shared history, embrace our diversity, and rekindle the spirit of unity that has always been the bedrock of our nation. We need to be the change-makers, the guardians of our culture and identity. We must rise above divisive rhetoric, false narratives, and external influences. As the old Ethiopian proverb goes, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” Together, we can, and we will, overcome these challenges, ensuring that the heart and soul of Ethiopia shine brighter than ever before.

In conclusion, as we celebrate Meskel and welcome the Ethiopian New Year, let us also commit to a renewed sense of purpose, unity, and love for our nation. Let’s envision an Ethiopia where traditions are celebrated with pride, where our flag flies high, and where every Ethiopian, irrespective of their ethnicity or beliefs, feels a deep sense of belonging. For in unity, there is strength, and in strength, there is a future.

(For correspondence or inquiries, the writer can be contacted at Essulesamu@gmail.com.)

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com  


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