As a child I always felt that God and His mother, the Virgin, were both Ethiopians. I know that where He’s from doesn’t matter but I always felt like I belonged in His hands and He understood me. I don’t know if there’s a better way to put this but, whenever I attended the Holy Liturgy with my grandma, I felt like it was heavenly and we were flying a hundred feet above the ground. But one day I remember seeing a different icon of the Virgin that made me question if she wasn’t really Ethiopian. And I remember realising that she was actually from Lebanon made feel distant and I don’t know, less loved and cared for than the people of Lebanon although I grew up closer to Her day by day.
Growing up, I noticed most of the religious movies (mostly made to make money) are neither biblical nor religious and are solely made to “white-fy” the bible. This is not to say race matters when it comes to religion, but there’s always this lingering feeling of being out casted after watching a so called “biblical movie” with people talking in British accent (I’m sorry if I pay so much attention to details). I can’t help but feel submitted to a foreign God. I feel less as I imagine a God like the one in the movies, I mean does He even speak Amharic? Or Should I just pray in English instead?
I’ll cut to the chase, I was embarrassed and heartbroken watching a TV program about the 121st Adwa Celebrations. The public was asked what it was about and NOT A SINGLE person mentioned God. This guy said;
It is a celebration to remember Ethiopia, as a black African country, had victory over Italy
It doesn’t even make sense! Black African? I’m surprised about how much western influence had damaged the minds of the youth, defining the purpose of our own victory shaped in accordance to their views. Making it about equality and economy, and colonization and what not.
Look! Adwa is much more. Adwa is God’s way of saying Ethiopia is mine. Adwa is a language of the quiet Ethiopians. A language of strength, a language of submittance to God. A language, deep, speaking softly yet with strength, that clearly showed the intercession of the saints. For one that paid attention, Adwa, is an immortal miracle, an answer to countless questions both from Ethiopians and around the globe. Menelik II is a hero, not because he led the army, but because he was STRONG enough to know he was WEAK. Because he knew, like king David, God was stronger and without Him there’d have been no victory. Because he knew and trusted St. George, God’s warrior, would fight in the battle with him. And he did, on his white horse leading the Army. Adwa is a living proof that a prayer, pure, from the heart is always answered and faith makes everything possible.
But on the contrary, this rich history is fading away to just “victory of Menelik II” glorifying the king and not The King of Kings. Adwa now has been clothed with cheap robes of worldly praises. And I blame this “modernized and democratic” world for putting this victory in political terms completely ridding it off of it’s golden religious history. I blame this world for the thousands of books written about Menelik II and The battle of Adwa but not a single one praising St. George. I blame this world for hundreds of youth jumping at a concert prepared in the name of the battle with beer in one hand instead of attending the annual celebration of St. George. I blame this world for this man that just answered on the program. I blame this world for not just “white-fying” Christianity but also Adwa.
Amidst all of this, one of the questions Adwa answered for me was the undeniable fact that God is closer to me without me being able to speak in British accent or without me being white. It proved to me that no matter how much the westerners try to “western-ize” God, for Ethiopians He is Ethiopian. For Africans He’s African.