It has been splendidly fascinating to see Ethiopians celebrating grand religious festivals in the last two days. Ethiopian Muslims were celebrating the Mawlid, the 1498th birthday of the Prophet Muhammad while the Christians were celebrating Demera (the burning of a large bonfire) and Meskel, the Discovery of the True Cross upon which Christ was crucified. The Muslims celebrated Mawlid by sharing meals, attending discussions on the Prophet’s life and virtues, offering prayer services, reciting the Qur’an, providing for the needy and the like. Interestingly, history remembers the Prophet’s trust in the then Ethiopian king; when his followers were persecuted, Prophet Muhammad encouraged them to flee to Ethiopia considering it as a friendly country where they were treated kindly with respect.
Demera and Meskel are the milestone events in Ethiopian culture and spiritual life. The Christians celebrate the eve of Meskel festival by setting a big bonfire, the Demera. People across the country set the bonfire near their homes. And at a huge gathering, in Addis Ababa, Demera is held every year at Meskel Square. It is one of the most popular events visitors both from home and abroad enjoy attending. Interestingly, the adherents from Islam and Christianity have been sharing the joys of the festivities to the extent the religious differences cannot be evident.
Indeed, the celebrations created the tremendously exquisite opportunity for the followers of the religions to share banquets, rejoice in their togetherness and cultivate harmonious relations. These values that encourage pleasant coexistence and unity are deep-rooted in Ethiopian cultures and norms. Since ancient times, Ethiopia has been known as one of the nations endowed with various cultures and religions. As these religions and cultures have freely been practiced, they accelerate the peaceful coexistence and harmonious relations of Ethiopians regardless of their differences. Pleasantly, Ethiopians live together in harmony to the degree the ethnic, cultural and religious differences can never be a barrier.
Every year, the Demera attracts a huge gathering of Orthodox believers, Sunday school students, several tourists and members of the clergy dressed in robes and traditional clothes. It is one of UNESCO’s intangible heritages that has become a world treasure with many cultural and spiritual values. As usual, foreign visitors who attended the Demera event expressed their impression on the colorful celebration and vowed to promote Ethiopia’s distinctive features to family and friends. They have been excited with the unique nature of the celebrations, particularly the public’s overwhelming participation in the festivity. As the large crowd dressed in a supremely eye-catching manner marched to Meskel Square, the event created a fascinating and memorable scene for the visitors and tourists.
Fortunately, different religions and cultures, in Ethiopia, are rich in values that cultivate unity and harmony. Hence, Ethiopians, regardless of their religious background, rejoice in the celebrations. Besides, the religious and cultural events are endowed with spiritual values and benefits that have universal significance. As a result, the number of tourists and visitors to participate in these events is progressively increasing.
In sum, Ethiopia considers these cultural and religious events as utmost blessings since they serve powerful platforms to promote togetherness, love, reconciliation, forgiveness and peaceful relations besides attracting tourists.
THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD FRIDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2023