April 8, 2011

Eritrea: a haven for Religious harmony

by Ibrahim Hajj | Melbourne, Australia

In a world far too often marred by conflicts resulting from religious intolerance and fanaticism, I thought it might serve a great purpose to highlight the case of my own country, Eritrea, as a model for religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.

I’ve just come back from Eritrea having spent five lovely weeks with family and friends. Mostly shuttling between Asmara, the capital, and my home town Keren. (90km from Asmara).
The weather was great with temperatures varying from15 to20 degrees Celsius.

Back in Eritrea after an absence of so many years the thing that struck most, and I’m sure many visitors to that country will not fail to notice, is the admirable harmony and tolerance that its people – made up of Christians and Moslems – enjoy.

It may sound bizarre but in Eritrea it is quite common to find a Christian with a Muslim cousin or a Muslim women with a Christian brother.

The harmony and respect for each other is noticeable be it while queuing at a post office to pay a bill, in public transport, at marketplaces, café’s , schools, soccer matches, hospitals and in any form of social interaction.

I will mention three occasions that I believe they should back up and indeed add credence to what I am saying.

Example #1:

My arrival there in early December 2010, coincided with the inauguration of a magnificent mosque in the city of Keren. At the inaugural ceremony there were, among others, 3 prominent priests representing the city’s major Christian denominations (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant).

In his speech, one of the priests (the 3 gave a unified single speech) remarked “It is a source of pride to us Moslems and Christians to see a place that had in the past been the site of incarcerations and tortures of innocent Eritreans has now become a place of worship.” He was referring to the former Ethiopian police station site on which the new mosque now stands.

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