I have been fortunate to be put into a position to mentor and befriend young writers from around the world. Technological advances have opened doors to countries that used to be closed off to those who could not afford to travel. The closest those of us who predate the internet could get was reading about other countries in books, watching documentaries, or what appeared on the news on rare occasions.
I have learned that young writers share far more similarities than differences as they struggle to find their voices. Similar wording is used no matter where in the world they happen to be. Some have a better command of the English language than others, since not all writers live in English speaking countries. To read past the grammatical errors of those struggling to learn to write in English is how the similarities are found. If I were to put paragraphs of their work with no information as to name or origin, it would be impossible to know if the writer is from Poland, Germany, Ireland, Nigeria, Ethiopia, or any other country in the world.
One such young writer that I have gotten to know is an Ethiopian, non-Orthodox Christian whose father is an Orthodox Christian. This young writer attends university thanks to a hard-working father who has made it possible. He lives on the wrong side of the ongoing conflict and has not heard from him in over a month. Like many Ethiopians, he is an innocent caught behind the lines of a war that has gotten very little attention from the press.
I will not write any details that will put this young writer’s life in danger. It is not safe for non-Orthodox Christians anywhere in Ethiopia. The environment is getting close to what the Jews in Ethiopia faced not that long ago.
Prior to the war breaking out, this young, Christian university student’s, with all the potential in the world, biggest concern was the increased divisiveness the Ethiopian government has brought. Christian churches, hundreds of mostly non-Orthodox have been destroyed in the past few years. Since it has been mostly non-Orthodox, the government refused to act in a way to bring Ethiopians together by reminding them of their shared past that links them to ancient Israel.
The reason I know about the concerns is due to mentoring has turned to friendship. This young writer who wants nothing more than to speak with the man who continues to work hard for his family, is unable to share the burden any other way. I have gladly accepted being a confidant, which is why most things will not be shared on a blog, or with anyone.
My friend has been having difficulty being out of contact. Not hearing from a father trapped behind the lines of war is not an easy thing to go through. Fear of the unknown was almost crippling.
I shared a passage from Jerimiah that helped. It’s a verse that many have gone to when facing despair.
29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
When the Assyrians scattered the tribes, one tribe ended up settling in Ethiopia. These were separate people from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, due to the time it happened. Most likely, it was the tribe of Dan who settled and remain in Ethiopia to this day.
Ethiopia, for quite a while, was a Jewish kingdom, until their ruler converted to Orthodox Christianity, which followed forced conversions and violence against Jews. Jews regained power later for a short time, which would be the last in Ethiopia’s long history. More forced conversions occurred until only a remnant of Jews were left who continued to practice at great risk to themselves. This remnant is living in Israel today.
When you have Jewish people living in a country for as long as has been the case with Ethiopia, it would be difficult to find any Ethiopian without any Israeli roots. The government should be pointing to ancient Israel as their common ground, rather than work to divide the people who live there.
Ethiopia is the oldest country in the world. They have never been conquered nor colonized by anyone. Their history has shown that when the leaders bring Ethiopians together, they become shining examples to the world.
When the government divides the people, brutal dictatorships come to power leading to the suffering of millions of Ethiopians.
The next time Ethiopia is in the news, don’t think of the people living there as nameless faces. Think of the young writer attending university. Think of the sacrifice of a hard-working father.
If Ethiopians continue to remain nameless faces, use the technology available and reach out to Ethiopians directly. Find out who they are, and you will find a part of yourself in them. They have the same passions and desires as all humans have within them. They dream of brighter futures for their children and Ethiopia as a whole. They are, as we all are, the very essence of being human.