Ethiopia’s Interreligious Council to organize counter demonstration as national religious conference kicks off today

Hadra Ahmed

Following persistent Friday demonstrations by the Muslims in Ethiopia, the Interreligious Council of Ethiopia said it was organizing a counter demonstration to be held on Sunday Sep. 2, 2013 in Addis Ababa.

Berihun Araya, board chairman of the council, told journalists yesterday that religious extremism in Ethiopia was growing stirred by individuals with hidden political agendas who were using religion as pretext.“Though it may seem late to react now we believe we are never too late to show our stand on the matter,” he said.

Berihun further said that the Council has “organized many peaceful conferences in different parts of the country, especially in the capital,” with the aim of creating awareness about the threats “we are facing on our religious unity”.

Accordingly the Council has organized different conferences in 10 districts and 116 Weredas here in the capital in collaboration with many government organizations including the Ministries of Justice and Federal Affairs.

Over the last 18 months Muslims in Ethiopia have been protesting, largely peacefully, every Fridays after prayers outside of the Grand Anwar Mosque against what they assert was an uncalled for government interventions in their religious affairs, among others. Thousands of Muslims mostly in Addis Ababa have continued to protest with their arms crossed to mime the act of what they believed is arbitrary arrests by the police, and with their hands over their mouth to express their frustrations with what they believe is their silenced freedom of speech.

However, with every passing Friday tensions are rising as the government recently moves to preempt what it sees as the rise of Islamic extremism in the country.

“It is our great hope that every citizen will support this counter demonstration to show its religious unity and peaceful relations with each other,” Berihun added.

The Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Affairs has organized a three-day national peace conference which kicked off today at the headquarters of the African Union (AU). The conference, which is being attended by hundreds of participants drawn from the country, is expected to deliberate on religious history and tolerance among different religions in Ethiopia, among others.



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