Scholar challenges Muslim-Christian conflicts in Ethiopia

3 December 2018 |

Langham Scholar Anwar Berhe (right) with Scholar Care Coordinator Malcolm McGregor (left).

Muslims (34%) and Christians (62%) have coexisted peacefully in Ethiopia for over a millennium.

In recent years, however, political corruption, economic injustice, and human rights abuses have led to social unrest, mass protests, and violent crackdowns. Many are hopeful that the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedhe can ease some of the tensions in the country.

Langham Scholar Anwar Berhe is completing his PhD in Islamic Studies at the Melbourne School of Theology in Australia. Prior to his studies, Anwar served as the Muslim Outreach Director at a church in Ethiopia for ten years. He also taught multiple courses on missions to Muslims in various theological schools in Ethiopia. Anwar and his wife Tsigereda have a five-year-old daughter, Yididya.

Peaceful coexistence

Anwar shares the following message:

My doctoral work focuses on investigating Muslim views of Christianity in Ethiopia and its contribution to the community in the contemporary period.

Ethiopia is the second most populous African country, with over 102 million people.

This work will help the Church and Christian missionaries to understand the different Muslim perspectives on Christians and Christianity. It will also develop strategies for peaceful coexistence with Muslims, and to share their faith in non-coercive ways.

My research will challenge Muslims to examine themselves and identify the Muslim theological ideas that lead to interreligious conflict.

Causes of conflict

For the first time in the history of Ethiopia, this work will provide recommendations to policymakers for considering how theological ideas, along with ethnicity and Muslim identity politics, can be the causes of conflict.

Lastly, my work will contribute to the literature and to the study of Christian-Muslim relations in Ethiopia.

I am approaching the last stage of my doctoral program and planning to submit my thesis this month. My family and I are preparing to return to our home country immediately upon completion of my studies.

Passion for service

Anwar with his wife Tsigereda and their five-year-old daughter, Yididya.

During our time in Australia, my wife Tsigereda developed a passion for using her expertise in service of the Church. She spent eleven years teaching children in primary and middle schools in Ethiopia, and has received tremendous training and experience in caring for the elderly here in Australia.

So, we are praying for guidance regarding how she might use her skills in caring for disadvantaged children and seniors who live in our community in Ethiopia.

Moreover, the Evangelical Theological College offered me a faculty position to serve as the Head of the Christian-Muslim Relations and the Mission departments, in addition to my teaching responsibilities. This position will enable me to equip more kingdom workers for Ethiopian churches and beyond.

Equipped to engage

My PhD work has significantly contributed to the development of my leadership and ministry goals in three significant ways. First, it improved my critical thinking, research, and writing skills.

Second, my PhD studies have helped me to reflect on my past leadership and ministry experiences, and to make changes. I am now more equipped to engage with people around me to work as a team and to develop ministry strategies that suit the Ethiopian context.

Lastly, as a Muslim background believer, I have a passion for promoting inclusive attitudes between Christian and Muslim communities in Ethiopia. My doctoral studies have deepened my passion for engaging with the Muslim community, for fostering interreligious dialogue, and for sharing my faith with Muslims in non-coercive ways.

Strengthen preaching

The development of my leadership and ministry skills will influence my future ministry endeavours. My future vocation will mainly involve teaching and training, writing literature, research, and personal engagement with Muslim communities.

Thus, my doctoral work will strengthen the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in my cultural context.

Prayer Requests:

1) We are preparing to return to Ethiopia at the end of this year. Please, pray for wisdom and strength to finish my paperwork on time, and for a smooth transition as we return to our home country and begin new ministry responsibilities.

2) Ethiopia is going through political reforms; please pray for a smooth and successful transition.

3) Pray for provision for our physical needs when we return to Ethiopia and resettle.

A shorter version of this article appeared in December’s Prayer Guide from LPUKI.

 

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