Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Save Waldba Monastery International Coalition Washington, DC
“. . .Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. . .” Ephesians 6:13, Now is the time…
Ethiopia is an ancient country. Christianity is part of Ethiopia’s ancient history. The earliest reference to the introduction of Christianity to Ethiopia is in the New Testament (Acts 8:26:38) when Philip the Evangelist converted an Ethiopian court official in the 1st. Century AD. The Axumite Kingdom, the forerunner to modern day Ethiopia accepted Christianity around 328 AD. Ever since then Christianity has played a major role in shaping the culture, tradition and history of Ethiopia.
The contribution of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church in history and socio-cultural development in Ethiopia is huge. The church rich in tradition is one of the first churches that embraced monastic life, these monasteries were not only spiritual communities offering prayers but also these monasteries and churches are the sources of literature, arts, music and culture. The church is the source of attraction for tourism where many pilgrimage to visit its age less monasteries as well as witness grand celebrations such as Holy Cross (Demera), Epiphany (Timiket) and many more. The alphabet Ethiopia is proud of today, the calendar Ethiopia uses, the music which is unique to the world and all have been contributed by the Orthodox Tewahedo Churches. We are convinced that the Ethiopian government understands very well the role of the church played in the development of culture, literature and socio-economic progress of the country in the past, as well as in this day and age. Particularly now where the government is assessing strategies to better utilize culture and tourism commission for economic gains safe guarding the well-being of church monasteries and its sacred site is of crucial importance.
What is Waldba Monastry?
Waldba monastery is one of the oldest and holiest religious enclaves in Ethiopia. It was founded around 490 AD and is located in one of the most remote regions of north Ethiopia. Government decree in the 15th century officially expanded the land of the monastery and marked its boundary to be within the four rivers and streams that surround the monastery. Waldba has produced many scholars and still continues to do so. Successive governments throughout Ethiopia’s history, including the self-professed anti-religion Derg, have honored the sanctity of the monastery. They understood that the monastery is a treasure not only to followers of Orthodox Christians, but for all Ethiopians and even the world.
Waldba Monastry’s existence is in Danger:
The Ethiopian government has begun construction of a dam on one of the rivers that border Waldba Monastry. The dam is proposed to provide irrigation water for sugar cane plantation. A sugar factory is also proposed to be constructed. The government’s effort in development and in establishing manufacturing facilities is commendable. However, the location of this proposed sugar factory facility will undoubtedly threaten the survival of this secluded monastery that generations of Ethiopians have worked hard to maintain. The dam results in inundation of lands within the boundaries of the monastery. In addition, development of a factory will be accompanied by construction of roads, residential and commercial establishments, and other facilities that will dramatically alter the character of the surrounding. It’s a foregone conclusion that this peaceful and prayerful environment will change to a bustling and chaotic new town.
Where the Ethiopian Government has gone wrong:
We have seen television images of government officials holding meetings with a group of people alleged to be local citizens. It is perplexing that such a meeting would be held AFTER construction has already begun. The internationally accepted process when undertaking such a significant project, and one that is likely to cause significant environmental and social impacts, is to perform a thorough investigation of the impacts of the project, including impacts on biological resources (plants and wildlife), cultural resources, archaeological resources, and social resources. The findings of these investigations would then be made public, and input from the public would be solicited. Through the dialogue with the public, additional studies may be commissioned, the project may be modified, or altogether eliminated.
The government has failed to provide to the public documents that show the full extent of the project, describing the territorial boundaries, the limits of inundation caused by the proposed dam, proposed roads, living accommodations, etc. Infact, the government has rebuffed concerns and questions raised by monks that are most directly and most significantly affected by the proposed project. The situation has reached to a crisis stage primarily due to the government’s flawed project development process, and its refusal to make public the technical studies that are supposedly the basis of the government’s decision to construct the project.
What should be done now:
We the members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and followers of the Ethiopian orthodox faith are gravely worried about the threat posted against Waldba Monastery in Ethiopia. Waldba monastery is believed to be the Jerusalem of Ethiopia, we are all sure it would have been possible to implement many factories in Jerusalem; it has not been done so for a reason; All Chrstians are asking now from all places why build a sugar factory in our Jerusalem? Waldba is the pride jewel of the nation now it is being subject to the chaos that entailed the name of construction of factories. The question is have analysis been made before these? Have they seen if this implementation affects the social activities of the society, have we asked how this implementations are affecting the moral values of Ethiopians, have environmental factors been added up to the project? Why should we build a sugar factory in Waldba? Why?
We owe it to ourselves and future generations to preserve the Waldba monastry.
Save Waldba International Coalition Temporary Committee calls for worldwide international peaceful assembly on June 4, 2012 to demand that the Ethiopian government:
1- Immediatley halt construction of the sugar factory that’s threatening the survival of the Waldba monastry;
2- Make public any and all technical studies that are the basis of the government’s decision to construct the sugar factory at the proposed location;
3- Conduct thorough analysis of the environmental, social, and cultural impacts of the project;
4- Come up with an alternative location for the proposed sugar factory.
We are asking the international media, your help in appealing to the Ethiopian government to stop the project construction at Waldba. We are asking the Ethiopian government to keep hands off policy when it comes to Waldba and leave this unique International heritage site alone.