Κυριακή 27 Δεκεμβρίου 2020

“Man is mud who is commanded to become a god” (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

Fr. Stephen Freeman
From here (photo from here, Cameroon)

(...) St. Gregory of Nyssa famously said, “Man is mud who is commanded to become a god.” That same frightening freedom is birthed with every child. And though the child is not aware of its meaning, it is born with a burning desire for God that will never be extinguished. This is the true “gravity” that guides the soul. Culture and nurture may fail and offer some tawdry substitute for God in which case the gravity of the soul will create misery. Regardless, every soul is capable of salvation, capable of giving thanks to its Creator who first shaped the mud into human form.

Though the pendulum of civilization swings in a frightening arc, its pivot point remains grounded in the providence of God.

Spend time with young children if the circumstances of your life permit. Listen to their normalcy (before someone distorts it). It is the sound of a gravity that reaches through time and will extend beyond. The universe declares the glory of God, including the fresh voices of children. Their sound, for a time, silences the noise of the enemies and the avenger.

Παρασκευή 25 Δεκεμβρίου 2020

Metropolitan of Zambia: Christians celebrate Nativity to show that hope can be found in most unusual places

Metropolitan of Zambia: Christians celebrate Nativity to show that hope can be found in most unusual places  

Orthodox Times

In the Mission, one can experience the beauty of Christmas and understand the true meaning of the Nativity since one follows the path of faith and piety, where Christ is constantly being reborn.

During the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan John of Zambia wished all the best on behalf of Pope and Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa and informed the faithful that the works regarding the Missionary Centre were about to be completed.

In his homily, he addressed the faithful and stressed: “On the 25th of December, Christians celebrate the Birth of the Godman in a humble manger in order to show that hope and love can be found in the most unusual places. Christians honour the Miracle of the Nativity. They worship the Divine Infant. Christ of Love. The Godman of Humility.”

“It is noteworthy that this makeshift hut in this part of Africa has become a new manger that has been hosting the newborn Christ in the hearts of children over the last 20 centuries,” he added.

“Happy, Blessed and very Merry Christmas! The Nativity marks a new beginning, an opportunity for forgiveness and shows a path of love and creation. Through the Nativity, the most beautiful things in life are possible even under adverse conditions,” he concluded.

Τρίτη 15 Δεκεμβρίου 2020

Tigray crisis: Why there are fears of civil war in Ethiopia

By Desta Gebremedhin
BBC Tigrinya
images copyright Getty Images

  • People queing to vote
    The election held in Tigray in September in defiance of the federal government heightened tensions

    Ongoing violence between the national army and forces loyal to the leaders of the northern Tigray region has prompted fears that Ethiopia is on the brink of a civil war.

    Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed since the fighting started on 4 November, and thousands have fled into neighbouring Sudan.

    What led to the fighting?

    September's election in Tigray, which the federal government had postponed nationwide because of coronavirus, is widely considered to be the cause of the recent rapid deterioration.

    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced a military offensive after accusing Tigrayan forces of attacking and seizing a military base in the regional capital, Mekelle - a charge they deny.

    But the tension has been building for longer.

    The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which was the dominant political party in Ethiopia for decades, has been feuding with Mr Abiy's government since shortly after he came to power in 2018.

    Elected as a "reformist leader", the prime minister accused officials in previous governments of corruption and human rights abuses, and removed key TPLF figures from the central government.

    This included the former intelligence chief and senior TPLF official, Getachew Asefa, who evaded arrest and fled to Tigray, where he remains as a fugitive.

    Mr Abiy's decision last year to merge the ethnically based parties that formed the governing EPRDF coalition and set up the Prosperity Party (PP) added fuel to the tensions. The TPLF opposed the decision, saying it would divide the country, and refused to join the PP.

    Earlier this year, the rift grew even wider after the federal government postponed nationwide elections.

    Tigray's decision to hold its own vote in September was an unprecedented act of defiance against the federal government. The federal parliament termed the process "illegal".

    Since then, both governments have designated each other as "illegitimate and unconstitutional".

    A resident of Mekelle region rides a horse painted in the colours of the Tigray regional flag as they attend celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the launching of the "Armed Struggle of the Peoples of Tigray", on February 19, 2020, in Mekelle
    A horse in Mekelle painted in the colours of the Tigray flag, which is proudly flown in the region

    The TPLF had previously made veiled threats of secession, citing an article in the federal constitution which allows the "unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession".

    "We will never back down for anyone who is intending to suppress our hard-won right to self-determination and self-rule," the region's leader, Debretsion Gebremichael said in August.

    Early in October, the federal government decided to cut ties with the Tigray region and the upper house of parliament voted to suspend budget aid to Tigray.

    Why was the TPLF so significant?

    Since the overthrow of Marxist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and up until 2018, the TPLF was the main partner in the governing coalition, as well as running Tigray itself.

    As a guerrilla army, the TPLF had played a pivotal role in Mengistu's demise and went on to dominate not just the country's politics but the economy as well.

    Mengistu Haile Marian with Fidel Castro
    The TPLF was instrumental in the 1991 overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam (R), seen here in 1975 with Cuban leader Fidel Castro

    Its disagreement with Mr Abiy represents a deep fracture in the very core of power in the country.

    Most of the Tigray's regional leaders, including Mr Debretsion, had served in the central government for long periods of time.

    Mr Debretsion, who is a veteran fighter, was at one time the deputy prime minister. His comrades and advisers also held key positions in the country until Mr Abiy came to power.

    What does the TPLF want?

    The Tigray's administration sees Mr Abiy's reforms as an attempt to build a unitary system of government destroying the current federal arrangement.

    It also resents what it calls the prime minister's "unprincipled" friendship with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

    Mr Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring peace with long-standing foe Eritrea. But the TPLF feels that Tigray's interests have been overlooked and it wants to have more say over future relations with Ethiopia's neighbour.

    On his part, the prime minister believes the TPLF officials are undermining his authority.

    Is Eritrea involved in the Tigray conflict?

    There is a long-standing rift between the TPLF and the government in Eritrea, which shares a long border with the Tigray region.

    The 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea war began over a dispute about territory along that border, particularly the area around the town of Badme.

    The status of Badme remains unresolved but Eritrea wants Ethiopia to abide by a UN-backed border commission ruling to hand over the town.

    But this cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the government in Tigray, as it administers the area.

    Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias
    There were celebrations when Prime Minister Abiy (l) agreed a deal with Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki in 2018

    Speaking about the attack on the federal army base, Mr Abiy's office has accused the TPLF of dressing its soldiers in uniforms resembling those of the army of neighbouring Eritrea to "implicate the Eritrean government in false claims of aggression against the people of Tigray".

    Tigray's leader, Mr Debretsion, has accused Eritrean forces of joining the fight alongside Ethiopian forces against Tigray. Ethiopia and Eritrea have both denied this.

    How likely is a full-scale war?

    The Tigray regional leader has said his forces are ready to fight to defend the region, which would be "a burial place for the reactionaries", calling on Tigrayans to understand the situation and make all the necessary preparations. The TPLF has also issued a bond to raise money for its war effort.

    "We have prepared our army, our militia and our special force. Our preparation is aimed at averting war, but if we are to fight, we are ready to win," Mr Debretsion said.

    In justifying the military confrontation, Mr Abiy's office has accused the TPLF of "continued provocation and incitement of violence" and said "the last red line had been crossed".

    He has issued arrest warrants foe the TPLF leaders, appointed a new leader for the region and predicts that the war will soon be over but the TPLF forces are highly trained and experienced so some fear the conflict could drag on.

    There is also a concern that the conflict in Tigray, which accounts for about 6% of Ethiopia's population of over 100 million people, could exacerbate tensions in the rest of this ethnically divided country.