Metho's Message to Ethiopian Muslim Leaders
Badr 8th Annual Conference in Toronto, Canada
Opportunities for Ethiopian Muslims as Advocates for
Human Rights in Ethiopia: Ethiopia Needs You!"
July 25, 2008
wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh--Peace be onto
I want to express my deep gratitude for giving me the
opportunity to offer you some words of encouragement
at your conference entitled: Ethiopian Muslims’:
Challenges and Opportunities. I regret not being able
to be with you in person to get to know you better and
to affirm your important role in Ethiopian society,
but hopefully, I will have that pleasure in the future.
First of all, I am excited that this conference will
provide an opportunity to Ethiopian Muslims to consider
the contributions that Ethiopian Muslims have made to
creating a unique environment in Ethiopia where Muslims,
Christians and Jews have lived in harmony for centuries
as well as to consider the challenges and opportunities
ahead and consider what you could do about them.
May Allah/God bless this conference, giving wisdom,
peace, truth and courage to you so that those blessings
might overflow to bless our nation, Africa and the world.
As it says in your holy book, the Qur’an and similarly
in the holy Bible: [1:5-6] “Thee
do we serve and thee do we beseech for help. Keep us
on the right path.”
I know this event is covering many relevant topics:
Islamic history, Ethiopian Islamic faith and identity,
health-related issues, current affairs and youth issues.
Inter-related to all of these is something I would encourage
you to seriously focus on something that is close to
my heart and passionately believe in and that is human
For those who do not know me, my name is Obang Metho
and I am the Director of International Advocacy for
the Anuak Justice Council, a small human rights organization.
I have been involved in human rights ever since December
of 2003 when Anuak—my own ethnic group—were
massacred in a genocide perpetrated by Ethiopian National
Defense Forces and some militia groups in Gambella,
Ethiopia. The Anuak, as a tiny minority group, had no
voice and their pain, suffering and misery was ignored
by most everyone other than fellow Anuak.
As I attempted to advocate for them in the international
community, I became keenly aware of the suffering of
many other Ethiopians undergoing similar injustices,
human rights abuses and oppression. As I did, I realized
that until justice comes to all Ethiopians, justice
would not come to the Anuak. I realized that until freedom
came to all Ethiopians, freedom would not come to the
Anuak and I realized that until the human rights of
all Ethiopians were respected, the human rights of the
Anuak would not be respected. That is why I am now speaking
out for all Ethiopians regardless of ethnicity, culture,
regional background, religion or gender and it is the
reason I am sending this statement to you.
Right now there are human rights atrocities going on
in the Afar region, in Oromia, in the Beninshangul-Gumuz
region, in the Southern Nations and especially severely
in the Ogaden and into Somalia. These are not just violations
of human rights, they are violations of Allah/God’s
law and principles and people who fear Allah/God and
value human life, should show that they care about such
injustice through their actions.
When the Anuak were killed, no one spoke out. It is
now our chance to speak out for those now suffering
in our country. If someone is wounded at the side of
the road, we should not first ask the wounded person
if they are from the same tribe, region, culture or
religion before we help them.
I am a strong Christian believer who believes our faith
should influence the way we live in everyday life—for
the little problems and the deep crises. I believe you
would agree with me. Ethiopia is now in such a deep
crisis and it is worsening to the point it may explode.
How can we be part of the solution?
Our people are suffering from the north to the south
and from the east to the west due to gross human rights
violations and related humanitarian crises like in the
Ogaden, which has been called “a
silent Darfur.” Ethiopians are starving
due to crop failures from drought as well as due to
corruption, human rights violations, mismanagement,
denial of the problem and the lack of good government.
People of faith should be at the forefront of intervening
for the good of the people. Our people are being wounded
and are lying on the side of the road. We cannot ignore
Ethiopian religious leaders have a critical role to
play in confronting these human rights crimes and by
helping those in need. In Ethiopia, Muslims and Christians
are the two dominant religious groups, each making up
approximately 50% of the population. If there is one
thing I would like to accomplish today through this
message to you is to encourage Ethiopian Muslim leaders
and Ethiopian followers of Allah to take a courageous
moral stand for freedom, human rights, justice, equality
and the rule of law for all Ethiopians. If we compromise
what we believe, we may be judged later not for our
actions, but for our inactions.
Human rights is founded on the fact that all human
kind are representative of Allah or God—that includes
the Oromo, the Tigrayan, the Amhara, the Afar, the Ogadeni,
the Anuak and all of the eighty different ethnic groups
in Ethiopia. It means the rich and the poor, the uneducated
and the educated, the Muslim and the non-believers,
the TPLF and the non-TPLF. As it is written in the Qur’an,
when a person sheds blood of another human being, it
is taken as that person is killing all human kind because
human life is so precious.
Allah loves all of those He has created. That means
there is no 99.9% human. Every human being is 100% human
and is precious in the sight of Allah. What does this
mean for those of us who are people of faith, wanting
to live righteous lives in submission to Allah in Ethiopia
or as Ethiopians in the Diaspora?
For many centuries, Ethiopia has been so unique in
Africa and in the world because of the way Muslims,
Christians and Jews have lived in such a peaceful manner
as close neighbors to each other, including their frequent
intermarriage. Ethiopian Orthodox priests and Ethiopian
Muslim imams have shared buildings or only been separated
by a fence in many places throughout Ethiopia.
However, today, some politicians are using religion
to advance their own self-serving political agendas
such as Meles claiming to be fighting a war on terror
when he is terrorizing his own people. They purposely
create division and hatred between different groups
of people to gain power or access to support and even
religious groups have fallen victim to this at times.
We must clean out our mosques, churches, hearts and
minds of anything that is not honoring to Allah.
As it says in the Qur’an, [49:13]
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a
male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes,
that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise
(each other). Verily the most honored of you in the
sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of
you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted
(with all things).
For instance, until Meles came to power, there was
not a history of such a thing as a Muslim killing Christians
or Christians killing Muslims in Ethiopia. But now Meles
is justifying his attacks on Muslim civilians in the
Ogaden and Somalia by claiming to be searching for terrorists.
As he does, some, but not all, within the Ethiopian
military are agents of destruction and are attacking
Muslim civilians, including women and children, with
impunity. Women are being raped and homes, cattle and
crops destroyed. This is morally outrageous and we should
be speaking out loudly with one voice.
Preceding the December invasion of Somalia, incidents
of violence were set up to look like religious violence
between Muslims and Christians in the Oromia region.
However, I personally spoke to witnesses of those tragic
incidents and they reported that they were able to identify
some of the perpetrators and knew them to be Meles supporters,
members of the military and some security forces who
were behind the violence in order to make it appear
like religious conflict. Such conflict was used as a
pretense to attack Somalia.
As a Christian, I was personally outraged by these
injustices against my fellow Ethiopian and Somalian
Muslim brothers and sisters and did my best to expose
this deception in an article you can find on our website: Plan
to Divide Muslims and Christians or Ethiopian
Religious Leaders Call Our People to Prayer
It should not matter what religious background in order
to speak up for justice. For example, since the massacre
of the Anuak, many Ethiopians have come forward to personally
express their support. This includes my Ogadeni, Afar
and Oromo Muslim brothers and sisters.
We Ethiopians must take purposeful action to educate
others within our faith so Ethiopians do not fall for
this deception purposely planned to overpower us by
stirring up dissension between religious groups. We
will not easily fall into this trap if Muslim leaders
such as you who are here today stand up for truth, justice
and right and if we look at the lessons of history like
in the former Yugoslavia.
That is one reason I am so happy that you have organized
a Muslim organization that can positively affect Ethiopia
by reclaiming the historical legacy of living in harmony.
Not only that, but the fact that this organization is
for all Ethiopians who are Muslim, regardless of ethnicity,
cultural background or political views, makes a very
strong statement to others who refuse to work together
simply because they might come from a different background.
From what I have heard, those of you attending have
come from all over Ethiopia and from many different
countries in the Diaspora. What an accomplishment!
We Ethiopians can be one family with diverse parts
and personalities—a garden of Ethiopia with many
flowers of varying color, shape and size. Differences
in religion—should it be Muslim, Christian, Jewish,
traditional religion or atheist—should not make
us enemies. We should be able to work together for a
better Ethiopia for our children. As you gather here,
you are in a position to pass on this belief and I encourage
you to start immediately to pass it on to others when
you return home.
As it says in the Qur’an, Muslims, Christians
and Jews all have the same roots in the Allah/God of
the Torah.[2:136] Say: 'We believe
in Allah and that which is sent down to us, and in what
was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and
the tribes; to Moses and Jesus and the Prophets from
their Lord. We do not differentiate between any of them,
and to Him we are submissive (Muslims).
We are our brother’s keeper. It says it in the
Qur’an as well as in the Scriptures that we are
to protect the weak, the widows and the orphans and
to practice justice and benevolence. We are to speak
truth, give mercy, administer justice and reach out
in love towards one another. If someone becomes filled
with hate and anger and wants to become radical, educate
them on how this could poison the future of Ethiopia.
We do not want to become like Nigeria where one kills
another and then the other retaliates in an endless
cycle of violence. We do not want such hatred to break
up our families and society. Instead, Ethiopian people
of faith who show other Africans and the world how to
live together in peace will become a mighty river of
blessings to the world and an example for others to
follow. As it says in the Qur’an, [49:9]
If two parties of believers fight, reform between them.
If either of them is insolent against the other, fight
the insolent one till they revert to the order of Allah.
If they revert, reform between them with justice, and
weigh with justice. Allah loves those who weigh with
The order of Allah/God gives value to human beings
and that it is why He “loves those who weigh with
justice.” It is for Ethiopians to defend one another
regardless of faith. If someone is prejudiced against
others, help correct their views. You do not have to
be a Muslim to defend a Muslim or a Christian to defend
a Christian. Neither do you have to be an Anuak to defend
Anuak, an Amhara to defend Amhara or an Oromo to defend
Oromo. Ethiopia is a nation for everyone. It is a home
where we extend hospitality to not just our family,
neighbors and kin, but to the wayfarer.
Meles and his EPRDF are trying to steal the real Ethiopia
from us and make us to be divided. How can we stop him
from breaking up our families and keeping future generations
in bondage? We can stop him by loving our neighbor as
ourselves. We can do it by refusing to tolerate hate,
corruption, injustice, genocide, greed, lies or doing
nothing. As it says in the Qur’an, [2:263] “Kind speech and forgiveness is better
than charity followed by injury; and Allah is Self-sufficient,
The anti-slavery movement in Britain, as well as the
civil rights movement in America, were both grounded
in Biblical principles that sprung out of the churches.
Malcolm X emerged with the message of justice and equality
from the Muslim community and led African-Americans
to arise and struggle for equality, civil rights and
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. fearlessly spoke
out about peaceably breaking down the walls of prejudice
and discrimination through following the teachings of
Ghandi promoted a non-violent struggle for freedom
in India using principles from various different religious
sources that instructed his people not to take revenge
as he said, “taking an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth would leave the world blind and toothless.”
Humility and a lack of hatred for his oppressors led
Nelson Mandela to free his people from the evil apartheid
system without destroying the society.
The Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet recently led a
non-violent struggle for freedom, equality and justice
of his people.
All of these examples point to Allah/God as having
created a yearning in the human soul for freedom. At
times like these, such freedom may come at great personal
The people of Ethiopia are looking for such courageous
leadership from their religious leaders as the pressures
around them increase to go the wrong way. In the Qur’an
it says: [4:27] “And Allah
desires that He should turn to you (mercifully), and
those who follow (their) lusts desire that you should
deviate (with) a great deviation.”
There is a battle taking place in the hearts of people
between following Allah/God and following the pressures
of the world. In our case, we have to refuse to give
in to becoming part of a system of tyranny. May the
esteemed teachers among you interpret this verse for
us as a needed lesson for us at such a time as this.
Our mosques and churches are where Ethiopians are looking
for teaching on how to live righteous and loving lives
in a world that is polluted with evil or the failure
to care about others. Many of the more fortunate in
our society believe they can ignore the poor, weak and
oppressed without sympathy, but this is not the way
of the genuine believer. We are all precious children
of Allah and He sees and knows all and His ear is especially
open to those who cry out to Him in need. Let us also
listen to those cries that Allah/God hears and have
generous compassion towards them.
In the Qur’an it says: [3:
92] “By no means shall you attain to righteousness
until you spend (benevolently) out of what you love;
and whatever thing you spend, Allah surely knows it.
Ethiopian Muslims could make a tremendous difference
in our country during these very difficult times. Can
you imagine what would happen if out of this conference
came a movement to reach out to Muslims throughout Ethiopia
to stand up for human rights, justice, democracy and
Can you imagine the impact Ethiopian Muslims would
have if out of this time together emerged a movement
to call together a conference for religious leaders
from all different faith backgrounds—Muslim, Ethiopian
Orthodox, Jews, evangelicals, traditionalists and others—to
work together in advancing these goals within Ethiopia
for a New Ethiopia?
We would invite you to be part of our call for a Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia. The faith community
is essential to bring reconciliation and lasting peace
to our country and the Horn of Africa.
We should not be afraid to influence the future of
our country as people of faith. We are not saying that
the faith community should be the government, but people
of integrity should shape the government and hold it
On the other hand, government should not intimidate,
control or prevent the religious community from doing
its job—leading people to live righteously, not
just inside the mosque or church but outside it as well.
Meles and his EPRDF government has succeeded in some
places in controlling the Muslim and Christian leaders
from doing their jobs through fear tactics, bribes,
intimidation and manipulation because they know that
faith can be a mighty obstacle against injustice. They
are more afraid of moral courage and truth than of physical
courage and insults. In doing so, they are pressuring
leaders and believers to not live out their faith according
to the Qur’an and the Bible.
Faith cannot be forced into cooperating with an unjust
system—sometimes by intimidating it into silence—or
it loses its genuineness and becomes worthless in affecting
a life or society. Both the Bible and the Qur’an
condemn belief that is not freely given to Allah/God
because it is meaningless if it is not sincerely believed
and lived out. In the Qur’an it says: [2:256]
“There is no compulsion in religion….”
In the teachings of Jesus he warns that believers should
not lose their “saltiness” in flavoring
and preserving what is good and right in society, regardless
of the costs. If more people lived by the principles
in the Bible and in the Qur’an, many of our societal
problems would improve and there would be much greater
respect and love between people.
Ethiopians will always be a diverse people with diverse
cultures and beliefs. If Ethiopia is to be their home,
where they and their children are to live and flourish,
we must learn how to live together and Ethiopian Muslim
religious leaders are needed to help.
I hope you will take the initiative to help your own
followers as well as to invite other people of faith
to join together to reclaim the legacy of harmony we
have enjoyed for years. We need your contribution in
rebuilding our broken society and healing our wounded
This is a critical time for us if we are to survive
as a people and as a nation. This is the challenge and
opportunity of our time and we cannot wait for others
to do it or ignore the warning signs because the road
ahead is long and difficult and without the help of
Allah/God, working through His people, we will never
If Ethiopian Muslims can lead the way in such peace-making,
they will be teaching others in the world a precious
lesson of history in the making that will tear down
the ignorance and prejudices of society about Muslims
and free our societies to live in peace.
May Allah/God find us faithful to Him in all that we
do and may He bring peace, justice, freedom, morality
and most of all—the fear and love of God—to
our beloved country of Ethiopia!
May Allah/God because of His great mercy and love,
give courage, wisdom, strength and blessings to Ethiopian
Muslims as you seek to meet the challenges and opportunities
of today and of tomorrow!
In the name of Allah,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
For more information please contact
me by email at: Obang@solidaritymovement.org