Sunday, 16 March 2014
Somalilandsun – This past Sunday the 9th of March, evangelical Christians from Ethiopia and Eritrea once again united in worship as a rare show of love between two people whose countries are in war footing back home in Africa.
Located at the corner of West 105th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the small Eritrean Bethlehem evangelical church in New York City welcomed dozens of Ethiopians from another evangelical church at 12st & 5th ave downtown.
This new project is bridging gaps and creating a foundation for peace between the people, said many congregants. Since last year, the two churches have been trading preachers, exchanging gospel materials and attending the church of one another every three months. Similar projects are also starting in Addis Ababa, where a large Eritrean evangelical and pentecostal population has grown in recent years due to persecution back home. Since independence, most evangelical churches have been banned in Eritrea, forcing many to flee to Ethiopia.
While politics is rarely mentioned, some members quietly say such peace projects exemplify how easily the two countries can fix relations. If the two economies unite, small contested lands like Badme become insignificant, and wasted resources on military could be diverted toward development, churchgoers claim. Ethiopia could also get much cheaper use of Asab port and Eritrea could get port revenues and cheap electricity from Addis Ababa, some hope. One faithful from the Eritrean Bethel church wondered, “We are one people. But Wouldn’t it be nice to have two voices in the UN that always support and back each other the same way like US and Canada or US and Britain do?”
But for now, they would have to settle with worshipping together thousands of miles away from their native countries. Using a healthy mixture of the two related languages during sermons (Amharic and Tigrinya) Pastor Mesfinn and Pastor Girmay has brought the two churches together. With some hope and prayers, many believe these initiatives are early signs of many good things to come for the two people.