Interrogating religious plurality and separation of state and religion in Ethiopia

  • Assefa Tolera
Keywords: Religious diversity, inter-faith tensions, state-religion relationship, religious pluralism, Ethiopia

Abstract

Ethiopia is a multi-religious country. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Christianity was the official state religion from the 4th century until the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. The Socialist Dergue’s (1987) constitution separated state and religion, and the FDRE’s constitution (1995) reaffirmed the separation, and further declared neither should interfere in the affairs of the other. However, the rules often become only theoretical possibilities rarely adhered to in practice. Despite the rhetoric of state-religion separation, as has been reflected in the Ethiopian constitution, the government finds it discomforting to leave religious institutions alone, and this seems to have become the cause of frustration among the Ethiopian Muslims. Furthermore, in the past few years, tensions were growing between followers of some of the religions, as well as between Muslims of different sects. Drawing on the author’s personal observation of the developments in relation to the subject matter over the last few years and his readings, this paper explores the causes of the growing religious tensions, conflicts and ‘radicalisation’ over the past decade, i.e., mid-2000. The paper also questions if the rhetoric of Ethiopia’s religious diversity is really an asset and religious tolerance a virtue. It then strongly argues for the need to build ‘religious pluralism’, a philosophical basis upon which the future of Ethiopia as a multi-ethnic multi-cultural country may be built. Finally, it concludes with a note that emerging challenges of inter-and intra-faith relations and the state–religion relationship are far from clear and, therefore, call for further research.

Keywords: Religious diversity, inter-faith tensions, state-religion relationship, religious pluralism, Ethiopia

Published
2017-03-22
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1684-4173
print ISSN: 1027-1775