Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Ref: Establishment of Orthodox Church Secretariat in Afaan Oromo in Oromia
We, Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-Based Organizations and individuals who are proponents of Human Rights, residing in North America, Europe and Australia issue this press release in support of the objectives of the Committee set up to establish an Orthodox Church Secretariat in Afaan Oromo in Oromia.
We have been following up the activities of the committee since it was made public. From the inquiry we made, we understand that the objectives of the committee are to work with the Synod of the Orthodox church to reverse the current trend of declining church membership in Oromia region. We understand that the committee wants the church to grow in membership and bring church members to understanding of the true mission of the Orthodox church. The committee has expressed time and again that they want to be part of the mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to teach the gospel and give church services in Afaan Oromo. They do not want to form a separate Synod in Ethiopia.
We are informed that the mission of the committee is in line with the gospel commission given by Jesus Christ to the Apostles and to all believers. Their mission is also in line with the desire of the Oromo Orthodox Christians. It is Biblical for believers to be served in their own language, in the context of their culture, identity and social relations. We do not have to over emphasize the importance of not interfering with God given right of people to be served and learn in their language.
However, we are saddened to learn that few Archbishops in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod tried to suspend the committee, on February 20, 2020, the priesthood of Kesis Belay Mekonnen, leader of the Committee and three other committee members who are working to establish the Secretariat. In addition, the Washington DC Metro Area Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church wrote a threatening letter to Kesis Samuel Berhanu Jebessa to appear before him and apologize for establishing Fayyisaa Addunyaa, an Orthodox Church established to give religious services in Afaan Oromo to the Oromo people living in the DC Metro Area. Fayyisaa Addunyaa, an Orthodox Church is the first Afaan Oromo Orthodox Church in the Diaspora to teach the gospel in Afaan Oromo. The effort made by Kesis Samuel Berhanu deserves prayer and support from Archbishop. We are saddened by the Archbishops misuse of trust given to him.
Kesis Belay and Samuel are accused of calling the Church in Afaan Oromo and giving religious service in Afaan Oromo, instead of Amharic. Fayyisaa Addunyaa in Afaan Oromo is the equivalent term of “Medhane Alem” in Geez which means the “Savior of the World in English”. The savior of the world has different names in different languages and cultures. In Spanish He is called “Salvador del Mundo”, in Italian “Salvatore del Mondo”, in French “Sauveur du Monde”, in Geez “Medhane Alem”.
To date nobody questioned why people of different language use the equivalent term in their own language to call the Savior of the World. In fact, the Amharic service in Amharic is derived from Geez and neither of them are the Original language of the Old and New testament. Only Greece, Hebrew and Aramaic have the status of being the language in which the Original Biblical Manuscripts were written. All other languages are interpretations of the three original languages. We believe that all languages serve the intended purpose and there is nothing that make Afaan Oromo different from the status of other languages.
We believe the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, like all other religions, is required to respect and protect the God given
human rights of the Oromo Nation. Moreover, the Orthodox church which claims to be Apostolic church is
expected to respect and promote the free will and choice of the Oromo nation and other nationalities to learn in
their own language. Hence, we fail to understand why Fayyisaa Addunyaa in Afaan Oromo is considered as a
crime for the few priests and bishops in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. We take this as gross discrimination at
the worst against the Oromo Nation, its language and cultural identity. The attempt of a few individuals to suppress
the Oromo language and culture, by using the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as a tool of domination and exploitation
will lead the Church to the worst crisis. We believe that problem is caused by Archbishops who have ulterior
motives which is contrary to the mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Therefore, we call upon all leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to respect and uphold the right of all cultures,
languages, peoples and their history. We expect the Orthodox church to conduct its business like an Apostolic
church following the model of Jesus (Medhane Alem). The Ethiopian Orthodox church should not behave like the
past dictatorial regimes in Ethiopia. If the dogmas and the fundamental principles of the church are not affected,
members should be given the liberty to organize in the way that address their spiritual need. Archbishop that use
religion to silence the voice of people to worship and pray in their language need to ask themselves whether they
are fulfilling the mission of the church or the will of the enemy of the church.
To this effect
a. We call upon the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to preach justice, peace, hope and love among all the peoples
of the world in all languages.
b. We call up on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to welcome and fully support the efforts of Kesis Belay,
Kesis Samuael and their colleagues who took the initiative to reverse the current trend of dwindling
membership in Oromia and other places.
c. We strongly condemn the acts of the few Archbishops in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod for trying
to suspend the priesthood of Kesis Belay Mekonen and his team.
d. We also condemn, in the strongest term possible, the utter hatred and discrimination against Afaan Oromo
in Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
We acknowledge and give full support in all means to the Committee set up to establish an Orthodox Church
Secretariat in Afaan Oromo in Oromia because:
a. The committee of Oromo clergy who are working to establish an Orthodox Church Secretariat in Afaan
Oromo in Oromia are serving justice, promoting equality and respect for human rights.
b. We believe, the establishment of Fayyisaa Addunyaa Orthodox Church to serve in Afaan Oromo in DC
Metro Area is part of the mission of the Orthodox Church.
c. We commend Kessis Belay Mekonnen for his commitment and hard work in making peace, building
harmony and love among Oromos of different faiths.
d. We commend Kessis Samuel and his congregation for working hard to fulfill the mission of the Orthodox
church; supporting them is the right thing to do and duty of all.
e. We commend the three Oromo Archbishops from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod who supported
the work of the Committee and the establishment of Fayyisaa Addunyaa Orthodox Church in Afaan Oromo
in DC Metro Area, by annulling the decision of the hateful individuals, who tried to suspend the priesthood
of four Oromo clergymen leading the committee.
f. Regardless of our religious affiliations we stand with them and give them material and moral support in
their endeavor to establish an Orthodox Church Secretariat in Afaan Oromo, to serve in Oromia and any
country around the world where Oromos reside because it is God given right of the people of the world to
learn and worship in their own language.
g. We believe that people must know the truth in the Gospel to give true worship to their God. Church
members who do not know the gospel become a victim of a system that does not meet their deep-rooted
desire to know God. In the past human instrumentalities have misled those who do not know the truth. We,
therefore, support the cry of the mass to exercise their right to their belief.
h. Finally, we would like to emphasize that we stand for the promotion and protection of dignity of
humankind, human rights, justice, equality and respect for all languages, cultures and religions throughout
the world, including Oromia/Ethiopia.
We would like to underscore that any attempt to interfere with the right of the Oromo Orthodox Christians will
worsen the already created mistrust. It is very important for the Ethiopian Orthodox church to realize the
consequences of any misunderstandings with the Oromo Orthodox Christians.
Signatories (Oromo Civic, Professional and Faith-Based Organizations)
1) Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
2) Oromo Studies Association
3) Oromia Support Group
4) Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organization
5) Horn of Africa Genocide Watch
6) Global Oromo Advocacy Group
7) Oromo Political Prisoners Association
8) Oromo Communities’ Association of North America
9) Oromo Legacy, Leadership and Advocacy Association
10) International Oromo Women’s Organization
11) International Qeerroo Support Group
12) Global Gumii Oromia
13) Oromo Parliamentarians Council
14) United Oromo Evangelical Church
15) Gumii Waaqeffannaa Addunyaa
16) Tawfiq Islamic Center
17) Tawhid Islamic Center of Minnesota
18) Mana Kiristaanaa Fayyisaa Addunyaa
19) Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society
20) Bilal Oromo Dawa Center
21) Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington DC Metropolitan Area
22) Spring of Life Pentecostal Oromo Church
23) Oromo Lutheran Church of Baltimore
24) Canaan Oromo Evangelical Church
Global Gumii Oromia
6909 Laurel Ave
Takoma Park, MD 20913
Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod
Koree Mana Lubummaa Oromiyaa