Eritrea: a haven for Religious harmony

Monday, 24 January 2011 12:55

Written by Ibrahim Hajj Melbourne, Australia

In a world far too often marred by conflicts resulting from religious intolerance and fanaticism, I thought it might serve a great purpose to highlight the case of my own country, Eritrea, as a model for religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.

In a world far too often marred by conflicts resulting from religious intolerance and fanaticism, I thought it might serve a great purpose to highlight the case of my own country, Eritrea, as a model for religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.

I’ve just come back from Eritrea having spent five lovely weeks with family and friends. Mostly shuttling between Asmara, the capital, and my home town Keren. (90km from Asmara).

The weather was great with temperatures varying from15 to20 degrees Celsius.
Back in Eritrea after an absence of so many years the thing that struck most, and I’m sure many visitors to that country will not fail to notice, is the admirable harmony and tolerance that its people – made up of Christians and Moslems – enjoy.
It may sound bizarre but in Eritrea it is quite common to find a Christian with a Muslim cousin or a Muslim women with a Christian brother.

The harmony and respect for each other is noticeable be it while queuing at a post office to pay a bill, in public transport, at marketplaces, café’s , schools, soccer matches, hospitals and in any form of social interaction.

I will mention three occasions that I believe they should back up and indeed add credence to what I am saying.

Example #1:

My arrival there in early December 2010, coincided with the inauguration of a magnificent mosque in the city of Keren. At the inaugural ceremony there were, among others, 3 prominent priests representing the city’s major Christian denominations (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant).

In his speech, one of the priests (the 3 gave a unified single speech) remarked “It is a source of pride to us Moslems and Christians to see a place that had in the past been the site of incarcerations and tortures of innocent Eritreans has now become a place of worship.” He was referring to the former Ethiopian police station site on which the new mosque now stands.

Judging by the deafening applauds; the priest had scored a curly goal at the Mufti’s home ground. The Mufti had earlier expressed similar sentiments stressing the fact that although the people of Eritrea went to their respective places for worship, they always shared moments of happiness and sadness as one people.

It is worth mentioning here that the event’s expenses (foods etc…) were paid for by individuals from both faiths.

Example #2:

I was at Keren hospital visiting a friend. In the same room of my friend was a young boy lying in a bed. The boy had had his leg amputated due to some rare complications. It was indeed a very sad spectacle. A young Moslem lady, presumably a family member, was dutifully looking after the boy.

After expressing my heartfelt sympathy, I was engaged in a friendly chat with the young attractive girl (the friend I came to visit was asleep!). She told me she had two cousins in Melbourne. I knew them both. What a small world!

I also came to learn that Hawa (that was her name) was in the hospital minding, Woldeet Tekheste, her young Christian first cousin. (Their mothers were sisters).
It was funny to see visitors (coming to see Woldeet) stop at the doorway, casting confused looks alternating between Woldeet and Hawa, lost and unable to tell if that was the boy they came to see. Their hesitation was understandable. Obviously things didn’t up.

Mind you, people should always be careful that the precious little gift (usually a kilo of banana or orange) they carried didn’t fall in the wrong hands.
Although, later, Woldeet’s parents came in to relieve Hawa, the job of feeding the boy was left to Hawa who handfed him (ekelet/Gaat – sort of a porridge) while the boy’s parents, clearly shaken by the whole ordeal, were busy recounting events that led to the misfortune that had befallen their 16-year old son to the their visitors.

Example #3:

I was at Keren football stadium – I’m a football tragic I have to admit – for a match between Al-Nasser (the home side, with a broad popular support) and Denden (from Asmara). When a Denden player had to be stretched off the ground due to injury, the two captains of both teams aided by two other players carried the injured player to the side line. It was a gesture of sportsmanship I had never seen in any match any where. (Al-Nasser won with a solitary goal in injury time – I was over the moon!)

What I witnessed at the hospital, or at the football ground were, as far as the people there concerned, nothing out of the ordinary. Just normal. But to me they were more than that. They gave me hope and optimism. That is as long as we got the basics right everything is going be right. These are things that should be highlighted, admired and spoken about.

The discovery of a huge reserves of gold and other minerals has given the people there a great moral boost. That is of course great. But to me Eritrea’s biggest asset is the admirable harmony and peaceful coexistence that its people enjoy.

Last Updated (Monday, 24 January 2011 13:02)

Source:  Shaebia – People’s Front  for  Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)


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2 Comments for “Eritrea: a haven for Religious harmony”

  1. Hamadnaka

    A. Hamdan (abu salama) was thrown to the rubbish bin after being used by the tyrant for several years. Now, here is a new Hamdan from Melbourne, but this one is more coward, than his mentor. He lacks self -esteem, self confidence and self respect. He is a hypocrit and is well known in Melbourne and he cannot execute the job very well. I ask Hamdenay to write his articles in Arabic to enlighten his wide audience of “kalam allel”, about the Eritrea: a haven for Religious harmony.

  2. ahmed

    الاخ حمدناكا هذا شخصنة لماذا لا ترد على ما ورد على المقال
    السيد ابراهيم كتب ولم تكن فى مقالته كلمة نابية كما اشتهر حمدان
    لذلك انه ضعف منك شخصنة الموضوع
    اما الاخ ابراهيم على رغم ما ورد فى مقالك من مغالطات ومعلومات سطحية فلك الحق فى الكتابة ارجو فى الاستمرار

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