As Ethiopians turns towards an upcoming election season and as countless tribal parties jockey for political power, I take this moment to state what is often unsaid. We are a nation that is deeply wounded and in need of spiritual healing. As Robert F. Kennedy noted while eulogizing Martin Luther King Jr, today is not about politics, this is a moment to speak truths that we overlook and discuss the deep pains that impact millions of Ethiopians at home and abroad.
The trauma of 1974, and the violence that bracketed Ethiopia in the years that ensued, has impacted almost every household. After the Derg deposed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974—a month before I was born— two terror campaigns took the lives of upward of 500,000 Ethiopians. A nation that had been kept together for more than 3,000 years had the one institution that protected her abrogated in a most violent way. Since the day Haile Selassie was whisked away in a Volkswagen Buggy, Ethiopia has been adrift in a sea of despotism only to be marooned on an island of tribalism.
I could enumerate the endless ways Ethiopia has been impaired by one regime after another as the plight of the common man and woman is relegated to the sidelines while the few thrive and foreign interests are placed ahead of the well-being of Ethiopians. However, I want to take this opportunity not to discuss the negligence of politicians but the disposition of We the People. I don’t write this to in any way lecture or piously preach as if I have figured life out, rather I write this as a testimony of honesty and love’s restorative power.
Let me start by stating the obvious. Ethiopia is not America or the United Kingdom. For too long, we have been bending like pretzels trying to fit the image of others while diminishing our own culture and customs. In a rush to be accepted, we have devalued the very essence of Ethiopianism. One of those traits is our spiritual connection; we are a land that is deeply driven by faith. While the Middle East, Europe and most of the known world was being bled by religious wars, Ethiopia enjoyed long stretches of peace as all three major religions coexisted without reverting to warfare.
It would take volumes of books to catalogue the significance of Ethiopia within the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Ethiopia is cited more than any other nation in the Old Testament (Torah) and New Testament for a reason, when Queen Sheba visited King Solomon, they had a child together by the name of Menelik I. The Solomonic dynasty started with the birth of Sheba and Solomon’s first born son. Menelik is not the only treasure that Sheba took back to Ethiopia from biblical Israel; shortly after her departure from King Solomon, the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Ethiopia.
Whereas the Ark of the Covenant was the manifestation of God in stone, fourteen generations later the manifestation of God was made evident through the womb of a Virgin Mary. When Herod realized that a King of Kings was about to be born during his watch and decided to kill every male child under the age of two, Yosef and Mariam fled Israel and crossed over into a land that has been renamed to Egypt. Back then, modern day Egypt was called Kemet and the area that Eyesus was raised in was Ethiopia for that was the name of the entire continent before it was renamed to Africa. Moreover, our country is where Christianity was first adopted 280 years before Rome decided to follow suit under the directive of Constantine.
The Axum Empire is also the place that gave refuge to Prophet Muhammad when he was forced to flee Mecca and Medina. It was Nigus (king) Armah, who was part of the Solomonic dynasty, who gave the Prophet Muhammad and his envoy shelter and refused to hand them over to their persecutors. It is for this reason why Muslims have a deep and abiding reverence for Ethiopia. To this day, Ethiopia is looked to by Muslims as a holy land that is to be respected. King Armah’s kindness and compassion towards the Prophet Muhammad was paid back with edicts not to harm Ethiopia or to wage wars upon our land. While other countries witness religious violence, rarely is our nation touched by sectarian strife. Jews, Christians and Muslims pray, eat and live together.
I note these narratives for a reason, we cannot deny our spiritual connection to our Creator. My aim is not to push one religion over the other; though I’m Orthodox Christian, I have no interest in promoting my religious views. Faith, after all, is to be practiced within instead of being weaponized to convert others who believe different than us. We all have our walks in life, how we arrive at God—or if we arrive at Him at all—is a personal decision each individual must make. However, there is a difference between not pushing faith and actively working to erase God from consideration. Separation of church and state is a foreign concept; for more than 3,000 years, Ethiopia’s system of governance entailed an abiding connection between monarchs and church. Almost every king and queen during the Solomonic and Zagwe dynasties were deeply spiritual and administered our nation from a place of faith.
When Mengistu Hailemariam and his thugs overthrew Haile Selassie in 1974, they also made it a point to divorce faith from government. Out went spiritual monarchs, in came lawlessness and Godlessness. Seventeen years of Derg repression gave way to 27 years of TPLF brutality. Meles Zenawi continued where the Derg left; instead of returning us back to our spiritual center, we were pushed further into the realm of Godlessness as they put the satanic pentagram on our Sendek Alema (flag) and shattered Ethiopia into tribal ghettos. TPLF revived Apartheid in Ethiopia by way of Ethnic Federalism and fostered secterian strife that could explode any day into a national conflagration. If we continue down this path of antipathy and tribalism, Ethiopia will end up like Yugoslavia at best and Rwanda at worst. Pray this day never arrives; bravado and preaching revolutions from the sidelines seem right until we are burying our relatives at a mass-lekso (funeral).
Forty four years of walking in the wilderness transformed Ethiopia from a proud nation that was admired by the world into a beggar nation. Our country has enough natural resources and intellectual capital to become the Japan of Africa, instead we have become a charity case of globalism as our leaders beg for donations and turn Ethiopians into the sweat shop labor supply of the world. Bureaucrats brag about economic development while tens of millions are impoverished. What good are shiny buildings if our people are homeless? What good is GDP growth if Ethiopians are not sharing in the wealth? What does it prosper us to gain the favor of globalists only to lose our souls in the process?
Aybekanem? Have we not had enough of tribal politics, governance that sacrifices long-term prosperity for short-term expediency, photo op leadership, greed for a few and famine for the rest, seeing mothers cry and children sleeping in the streets while the uber rich live like kings? Haven’t we had enough of the second coming of Zemene Mesafint that is killing hope for millions of people as Ethiopians are being internally displaced by the millions and externally depressed as we weep for our nation.
Psalms 68:31 notes “princes shall emerge from Kemet; Ethiopia shall quickly turn her hand back to God”. I always loved this particular psalm but I never really grasped its depth. The statement “shall quickly turn her hand back to God” implicates Ethiopia for turning away from God. We have in fact turned away from God as too many of us chase ego instead of humbling ourselves before Egziabher. Too many of us have turned away from God as we forget about the least among us in order to make the most out of ourselves. Too many of us have turned away from God as we brag with empty pride about never being colonized without doing the hard work needed to lift our country out of poverty. These sicknesses cannot be fixed by ballots and elections, we are a nation that is dire need of spiritual mending.
I write this message within the context of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy for a reason. The same way we are in a rush to be accepted by others at the cost of our heritage, too many have been conditioned to think the worst of the Ethiopian crown. Forty four years of Marxist propaganda that continues to this day has poisoned a large swathe of Ethiopians against the very institution that kept us free from colonization and once made us the envy of the world. This is not to deny that past injustices have been committed, however to go from addressing wrongs to erasing the world’s oldest Monarchy is a most unwise endeavor. It is not lost on me that the very people who disparage the Ethiopian monarchy are the ones who lavish praise of the British and Norwegian monarchy. What good is bragging that we have never been colonized if we disrespect our heritage while we bow before the world?
As I noted before, I am not here to preach to you. In fact, I am a flawed messenger passing along a much needed message. In a lot of ways, my life is a parable of what is happening to Ethiopia. I arrived in America at the age of seven only for my name to be changed from Teodrose to Theodore. It did not take too long to disavow my heritage and seek conformity for the sake of acceptance. After being teased mercilessly for the way I spoke English and the way my clothes smelled like wot, I made it a point to lose my accent in order to fit in. I practiced saying “the” instead of saying “zee”; within a few months I got rid of my twang and splintered myself from my first love Ethiopia in the process. Thirty seven years of walking in the wilderness with empty pride and bravado ended up with me homeless in Colorado—I had to lose everything in order for me to find myself.
I don’t tell you these things to curry pity nor to present myself as a victim; I recount this most painful part of my life to give hope to millions who live without it in Ethiopia and beyond. Our present circumstance is not a life sentence; no matter your predicament, there is a way out of the darkness and into the light of renewal. The first step towards redemption is to stow away arrogance and stop being bitter—anger is only a pathway to destruction. If we want to effect change in Ethiopia and throughout the world, we can only do so through kindness and compassion for ourselves and others who suffer next to us. Fiker yashenifal, love will win the minute we let love be our moral compass.
We need healing in Ethiopia, we’ve had enough of politics. I believe in my heart that Ethiopia can usher in a new age of peace and prosperity not only for our country but for our continent and the world by extension. Our planet is being polluted and choked with the hands of hubris and avarice, the only way we can head off an oncoming cataclysm is if we turn away from the politics of division and embrace the spiritual essence of unity. Failing that, we will keep creeping closer and closer to global calamity that will make World War II seem like child’s play.
Our choices then are simple, continue chasing tribal politics, seeking self above the collective whole and erasing our culture in order to be accepted by the world or we can quickly turn back our hands to God and restore our beloved Ethiopia back to greatness and lift countless millions of people out of hopelessness and poverty. I pray that we choose the latter instead of pursuing the same methods that have been tried for the past 44 years and wondering why we hurt::
“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ ~ Isaiah 49:8-9
This song is a personal dedication for all Ethiopians and people throughout the world, let love enter our hearts and let love win. #FikerYashenifal
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.