Ethiopia journal: Religious tensions

Its 3:00 AM. The loudspeaker on the Minaret down the road has been chanting 24/7. Just last week a group of Coptic Christians north of here were murdered over attempting to install a bell in their church. It reminds me of Jenkin’s comments about the control of the city skyline and public sounds has being significant throughout the history of religious conflicts. In our town, we simply have scientific rules about how loud anyone can be before or after 10:00 PM. That, and the rule that no one may build a structure in D.C. higher than the capital dome. And they say that secularism isn’t religious. Bah.

Why are Ethiopians so chill? Do they just envy on a smaller scale? Obey the 10th commandment more than we, without realizing it? It is a grace from God. Can I pray and ask the Lord to bestow such a grace upon my own children? Perhaps, if he bestowed it on me, it would rub off. My wife and I have been referring to this as our “African lesson” – to chill out and leave behind our unnecessary impatience.

In Ethiopia, Addis is a philadelphia, a city of brotherly love. The Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and even Muslims all get along. The conflicts are in the rural areas, where the Muslims feel the need to murder the Christians in the next village, the Orthodox are especially strict and intolerant, and the Protestants think they are better than everyone else. I am wrestling with how to explain this in Girardian terms. Is this because of proximity or lack of?

“This town ain’t big enough for the two of us” versus “This is on big heck of a town” or perhaps, “I can’t pretend that I’m a big fish in a huge pond like this” or something else entirely? Some dynamic of peace is at work here. It’s a good thing. I hear about the same thing in Jerusalem too, where there are pockets of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors who get along. The fighting is on the border towns.

This is from a recent piece by journalist Daniel Greenfield:

“Instead of dreaming of Bin Laden’s head on a platter, we [the west] began entertaining lunatic visions of the patron saint of democracy climbing down the Muslim chimney to leave presents of civil rights under the big Eid tree. And the root cause of that fallacy is that we thought that if we made them like us, there would no longer be any reason to fight them.”

Girard knows the opposite is more likely true. If we make them more like ourselves, then we actually increase the potential for fighting. “Reason” has little to do with it. Religion trumps everything. That peace can be bought by conquest (militarily or ideologically) is and tried-and-true fallacy.

Kartoum’s lit streets are all in straight lines, its roads in proper grids. In this way it looks nothing like Addis. Instead of a sprawling spider, we see a contrived machination of zoning and asphalt. Is it newer? More Muslim? (Sudan is 97% Muslim, Ethiopia 33%) More capitalist (oil)? Why more modern? Maybe the topography alone is a valid explanation. It is flat desert, not high desert mountain. Still, I doubt it can be attributed to one thing.

In one thing it is alike – the spotty streetlight of its residential areas. These must be just as poor as the rest of Africa – more shack than house. I wonder what it looks like from a car on the ground.