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Humanity before Ethnicity

SMNE News Alert:

Detained Ethiopians in Japan Released from Custody!

Part two.

September 3, 2010

By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down…. If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure. (Proverbs 29:4, 14)

Ethiopia’s future has never been less secure due to the simmering anger, outrage and dissatisfaction right under the surface. Life has never been more difficult for the majority despite its many assets. Ironically, Ethiopia, which is now claimed to be the second poorest country in the world according to the results of Oxford’s study on Multi-Dimensional Poverty,[1] is also one of the most resource rich countries in the world. Many foreign countries and investors are avidly seeking a share in developing our natural resources and Japan is one of them; yet, 90% of our population lives under intense poverty—not lessened in 2010, despite Meles and his governments’ claims of double-digit economic growth. This is all accompanied by harsh repression; making Ethiopia a prison to its own people. We must look within and ask ourselves why does this continue? 

We have a decreasing middle class and increasingly wealthy elite; most of whom are benefiting from a cozy relationship with the EPRDF/TPLF regime and who seem to care very little about those who are in poverty.  Worse than that, many are robbing the vulnerable majority, people who have almost nothing! Many choose to risk death and suffering on the road to freedom elsewhere than living in Ethiopia. All of this points to the failure of all of us to care about others less fortunate than ourselves; especially when they are of different ethnicity, culture, political view or religion. It is also about our failure to put “humanity before ethnicity” or any other difference. We too often fail to sacrifice for the good of others and our country; forgetting about God’s moral law that could bring about a healthier, more harmonious and less impoverished society instead of one where we are known for starvation and begging when we should be able to feed ourselves and to care for our own people.

We blame others rather than doing something ourselves. In order for Ethiopia to become a place not to run from, but a place we want to stay, every Ethiopian must contribute. As Birtukan has said in one speech, “I am determined to do whatever I can to bring change, are you?” Yet, Birtukan, who remains in prison, with a life sentence for refusing to lie and for standing up for the Ethiopian people, is not getting the support necessary to bring about the change for which she is sacrificing. Is each of us; including you the reader, determined to bring such change? We cannot just wish for the change we want, we have to become the catalyst for such change.

Hearing that these Ethiopians have now been released from detention is a good thing, but even if Japan quickly improves the plight of Ethiopians in that country, we will find it impossible to solve the immense problems faced by Ethiopians all over the world as they seek new homes outside their mother country. Instead, the solution will only come if we Ethiopians care for the wellbeing and future of all our people. Would you be part of that change? If you hesitate because of ego, jealousy, power, greed, fear or simply unwillingness to take a stand; Ethiopia will continue to be a prison from which our people will try to escape. 

My fellow Ethiopians, it is time to reflect and to not be selfish, opportunistic or filled with greed for more than is our share. Life is too short. We cannot afford to jeopardize the future of our children; passing on the same curse to them—of ethnic hatred, of feudal thinking or of not caring for other human beings. We have to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others; especially the vulnerable, the beggars, the homeless, the marginalized, the disabled, the displaced, the elders, the uneducated—they are us. Until we see them as us, we will never break the curse of Ethiopia!

The last night before I left Japan, I had the opportunity to meet with other Ethiopians who had not been part of the community meeting. There had been some disagreement between some in the community prior to my visit, but I did not want to leave Japan without meeting with them as well. I told them that I did not come to favor anyone, but I favored all of them; explaining that lack of collaboration has been the reason they were in Japan and living under such difficult conditions. It was also the reason for the hardship of Ethiopians throughout the world; all of which could best be solved by bringing about a good government in Ethiopia that truly cared about the people.

The meeting was very good and afterwards we all went for supper at an African Restaurant owned by two Ethiopian brothers where we met up with many of the other leaders from the Ethiopian community. We had supper, talked, joked and laughed together; even temporarily forgetting about the pain. As I was enjoying myself so fully, I thought about how this was the kind of society Meles was trying to destroy. We were there like brothers and sisters. I did not know their ethnicity or other details that often separate people, but we were like a family of people from the same country, getting along and enjoying each other. This is not unique to this place, but I have seen the same human connections rise up between diverse Ethiopians on such occasions as I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the world and visit with them. 

People asked me, why do you do this? I told them, “If we don’t, who will? I explained that if those who had come before has had done their share in building a better system, we Ethiopians would not be suffering the way we are today in foreign lands and that it was now up to us to do something to make sure our children do not suffer in the same way. I further explained that maybe this is what God wants me to do; that my conscience cannot allow me to overlook the suffering of the people. As I reflect on it now, I am simply wanting to do what I can—not to please anyone but God who loves each of us and who calls us to do the same towards others.  

There are already many Ethiopians who are helping and I want to mention some of those I met in Japan; like Ato Abebe Zewge, the Chairman of AdeyAbeba Ethiopia Association in Japan and ten other Ethiopians, all of whom have a big heart for other people. Wherever we went, these people were with me; even sometimes sleeping only a few hours some nights in order to meet the demands of this highly intensive visit to Japan.

These people have become the caregivers of the Ethiopians; troubleshooting and supporting them in their time of need. I have met many Ethiopians like them throughout the world. These are the people through which a New Ethiopia will emerge, but we need many more. My final question to you, the reader, is; “Will you be one of them?” 
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  (Proverbs 31:8-9)


Please do not hesitate to email your comments to Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE. E-mail: Obang@solidaritymovement.org Please help us by clicking the following link and filling out the required fields to be add on our mailing lists: http://www.solidaritymovement.net/.You can also join us on our Face book page.


[1] http://www.ophi.org.uk/policy/multidimensional-poverty-index/ “Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the UNDP Human Development Report launched the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) – an innovative new measure that gives a vivid “multidimensional” picture of people living in poverty. The MPI will be featured in the 20th Anniversary edition of the UNDP Human Development Report and complements income by reflecting a range of deprivations that afflict a person’s life at the same time. The measure assesses the nature and intensity of poverty at the individual level in education, health outcomes, and standard of living.  OPHI has just concluded a first ever estimate and analysis of global multidimensional poverty across 104 developing countries, and is releasing these results in advance of the Report’s October publication.”  Ethiopia ranks as the second highest on the scale of MPI, with 90% of Ethiopians living in poverty; second only to Niger.

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