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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Wed May 06 2009 - 09:04:18 EDT


Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, University of Bahrain

It was Easter Sunday eve that I was invited by my neighbors in Bahrain to go
to their church with them. It was my pleasure to spend the evening at the
National Evangelical Church located in the center of Manama city. Adjacent
to this church there is a beautiful Mosque. To celebrate the Easter eve so
many Christians from many races came to the church. At the same time, so
many Moslems were entering into the nearby Mosque. As soon as we got inside
the church and properly settled down, the program for the evening promptly
started. The pastor started the sermon by citing from the Holy Bible and
teaching how Jesus Christ was born and then crucified and how the Almighty
God saved the world through Jesus Christ. At that same moment, I heard from
the adjacent Mosque the *Moathen* reminding the attention of his followers
for the regular prayer by saying, “*Allah wo Akbar, la Elaha ela Allah
Mohammed rasoul Allah*.” He was saying that Allah is Great, the one and only
one Allah above, and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah. The Imam was inside
the Mosque also citing from the Holy Quran and together with his audience
was praying for the forgiveness of their sins which the Almighty Allah
grants in His mercy by following the prophet Mohammed just as the Christians
were praying to God for the same purpose but through the son of God, Jesus
Christ. Both crowds from two separate houses of God and Allah were praying
to the same Almighty God/Allah. It was interesting to observe that two
separate crowds with their respective spiritual leaders were following two
separate and different routes to pray, but the final destination of their
prayer was to the same and only one Almighty God/Allah.

Many of us claim that it is too sensitive to talk about religion. There is
nothing wrong talking with religion, if we discuss it with open minds. The
benefit of knowing about each religion is much greater than being ignorant
about one religion or the other. We observe, in some of our traditional
orientations that some of us Christians or Moslems consider a sin or Haram
to eat meat in Moslem or Christian households. Some of us Christians may
think that it is a sin even to touch the Holy Quran let alone to hold and
read it. Some of us Moslems also may consider that it is Haram even to touch
the Holy Bible let alone to hold and read it. This is because our
traditional religious leaders from both sides have not really taught and
encouraged us to read and understand the other religion which may be
different from ours. How many of us have read either the Holy Quran or the
Holy bible to know the difference? We need to pick up the Holy bible or the
Holy Quran to read and understand what each Holy Book says and how each
other may be different from one another. It is when we know the other
religion that we know well our own religion by understanding what or how the
other religion is different from our own religion. In fact, there is only
one religion with the Almighty God/Allah because He is the only one who
created all of us (Christians, Moslems and others) in His own image.

In addition, one Sunday a friend took his mother to a Coptic Christian
Church run by Egyptian-Americans. The sermon was in Arabic and the priest
was reading some verses from the Holy Bible written in Arabic. The moment
the priest said “*Ismilahi*” (in the name of Allah) the mother felt that she
was inside a Mosque. She complained why she was brought to a Mosque and she
asked her son to take her home immediately. He tried to explain to her to no
avail that it was a Coptic Christian church and the only difference between
the church in her village and the Egyptian church was the use of Arabic
language in stead of Tigrinya. Obviously, it would not be a surprise if some
of us in Diasporas just like the mother, relate Arabic language to Islam and
Tigrinya language to Christianity. We need to understand that these two
languages and even others have nothing to do with any religion. To some of
us, our ethnic languages may be Tigre, Kunama, Bilen, or Arabic, but we may
be Christians. To some of us, our native languages may be Tigrinya, Saho,
Heddarb, or Narra, but we may be Moslems. The point is that we are one
people from one country with different religions and languages. Some of us
may be Moslems and others may be Christians. Even as Moslems some of us may
be Sheah and others may be Sunni. As Christians some of us may be Catholics,
some may be Protestants, and others may follow other religions. But the
Almighty God or the Almighty Allah is the same one and the only one for all.
Even though we worship a different faith or belong to different
denominations, we all pray to the same God/Allah. But we try to make a
distinction among ourselves by separating a Christian from a Moslem, a
Protestant from a Catholic, a Bahaullah from a Jehovah, a Sheah from a Sunni
and Jewish from Buddhist in order to create divisions and separations among
ourselves. We forget that we all are humans first who appreciate and cherish
the love of God/Allah and would like to live together in peace and harmony.
The only difference among ourselves is that we may have a different faith
which is a matter of having different orientations and perspectives.
Whatever faith we may follow is a personal matter but the faith that we
follow has no place in the true sense of political and community affairs.
The Eritrean community has to embrace all Eritreans irrespective of their
religious and political affiliations because we are all brothers and sisters
of the same blood and soul.

Furthermore, in Arabic it says, “*Temshi Ketir teshuf wo tesmeA Ajayb*.”
When you travel a lot you would see and hear many things that would surprise
you. When I travel many times to many places, to conduct seminars to many
Eritrean communities, I observe and hear about the dysfunction and
disintegration of communities, due to the interferences of political and
regional sentiments. It is ridiculous sometimes to hear and observe some of
us attempt to make devious separation and division among ourselves on the
basis of region. The attempt of promoting this backward and negative
sentiment of regionalism in the names of Hamassien, Akele Guzai, and Seraye,
simply signifies the loss of sense of morality and maturity. The British
coercive rule survived in Eritrea by using the “*divide and rule*” colonial
strategy. They implanted this mentality in our people by creating animosity
on the basis of religion, region, and ethnicity. The British used this
political maneuver to serve them for their colonial purposes. It is sad to
observe that some of us inherited this evil mentality from our colonial
masters, to create divisions instead of unity among our people, without
realizing its long term consequences. It may be a blessing to have a fund
raising project targeted for building a church or mosque, school or highway
or water supply, collected from individuals of former Akele Guzai,
Hamassien, or Seraye region, but we cannot afford to divide our people into
so many divisions for some personal and selfish interest. We are too few
people and Eritrea is too small a country to entertain and accommodate this
senseless act and divide our people by region, religion or ethnicity, mainly
in Diasporas. We have to realize that regionalism adversely affects any
sincere political, religious and community affairs, and whether we are from
Seraye, Hamassien, or Akele Guzai, or from the highland or lowland, we are
still one people from one country Eritrea, who should make a collective
effort for the common goal. It does not matter if we take different routes,
but our final destination has to be the same one – nurturing our children
and community with open minds and positive attitudes.

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