- The Orthodox priest known as Abba Aklilemariyam is currently raising funds to build a church and a mosque in a town in the East Hararge area of Oromia region.
- Komos told the BBC Afaan Oromoo that building a church alone and ignoring the poor state of the mosque would “disappoint God”.
- Religious animosity exists in Ethiopia and once in a while Christians and muslims clash over their religious differences.
It’s not everyday that a Christian more so a priest would go out of his way to similar champion and promote Islam knowing too well the fierce competition that bedevils the two religions.
An Ethiopian Orthodox priest is, however, a living proof that Christians and Muslims can cohabit peacefully and even help each other grow without as much as considering their different faiths.
The Orthodox priest known as Abba Aklilemariyam is currently raising funds to build a church and a mosque in a town in the East Hararge area of Oromia region.
Ethiopian Orthodox priest Abba Aklilemariyam. (BBC)
While on a visit to Lange town he noticed the poor state of the town’s church and mosque and the local congregations lack the funds to refurbish them.
Being a pragmatic and proactive servant he decided he needed to do something and fast.
Komos told the BBC Afaan Oromoo that building a church alone and ignoring the poor state of the mosque would “disappoint God”.
“If I only raise funds for the construction of my church while my Muslim brothers’ mosque is in the same situation, I shall disappoint God. Our faith is different, but not our love,” he explained.
An Ethiopian Orthodox priest in front of Abuna Yemeta Church carved in the top of a mountain in the Gheralta area of the Tigray province. (Facebook/africa.geographic)
He then reached out to leaders of The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council to vouch for him in mosques across the capital, Addis Ababa.
His idea to raise funds started in 2015 during a visit to Lange, when he noticed the poor condition of the church.He soon expanded the plan to include building a new mosque.
“I started collecting the money in October 2018 first going to the Nur mosque in Addis Ababa. In less than two months we collected more than 200,000 Ethiopian birr [$6,200, £4,700],” he said.
The new church (L) and mosque (R) are both now under construction. (BBC Africa)
Religious animosity exists in Ethiopia and once in a while Christians and Muslims clash over their religious differences.
For Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, the ancient city of Aksum is a sacred place, home to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant.
The ancient city of Aksum. (Britannica)
Some Muslim groups have been campaigning to build a mosque in the city – a suggestion fiercely opposed by Christian leaders, saying they would rather die than see a mosque in their holy city.
“Aksum is our Mecca,” Godefa Merha, a senior cleric from Our Lady Mary of Zion, who believes that just as churches are banned in Islam’s holiest site, mosques cannot exist in Aksum told BBC in 2019.
“If anyone comes to build a mosque, we will die. It has never been allowed, and we will not allow it to happen in our age” said Godefa
This long-held position of Orthodox Christians is now at the centre of controversy as some Muslims are rallying under the banner “Justice for Aksum Muslims” to demand the right to build a mosque in the city, and to give their call to prayer – “Allah is the greatest” – on loudspeakers.
Today, Muslims make up about 10% of Aksum’s population of around 73,000 inhabitants – with 85% of them being Orthodox Christians and the remaining 5% belonging to other Christian denominations.