ethiopian christianity

5

The Rock Hewn Churches of Ethiopia,

One of the forgotten centers of Christianity, Ethiopia has an ancient history that can be traced back to Biblical times.  In the 4th century AD Christian missionaries flocked to the ancient kingdom, establishing a rich Christian heritage that now forms the foundation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  While Islam spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the Christian tradition continued in Ethiopia, with many Europeans thinking of Ethiopia as a “New Jerusalem”.

In the 12th and 13th centuries near the modern day village of Lalibela, a group of Coptic and Ethiopian Christians established a large religious center complete with monasteries and 11 churches.  However, the churches of Lalibela were unlike any other in all of Christendom.  Carved out of solid rock, the churches of Lalibela were built from the top down rather than the bottom up.  Essentially the engineers of the churches found large solid rock outcroppings, planned the shape and layout of the buildings, then had the workers begin carving downward.  An incredible feat of engineering and planning, the carving work alone would have taken years of tedious, exhausting hard work as the Ethiopians would have only had simple iron chisels and tolls, and most likely lacked the help of extraterrestrials.

Once the building was carved and shaped out, the workers would have then hollowed out the inside of the building, carving windows, interior spaces, chambers, vaults, domes, and archways.  Needless to say, being carved directly out of the solid stone, the churches of Lalibela were made to last.  The interior of the churches would have been decorated with Byzantine style icons, portraits, frescos, and mosaics whose color and beauty rival that of Medieval Europe.  Much of the artwork is still intact, fastidiously cared for by the monks and clerics who have occupied the grounds for hundreds of years.

In addition to the art and architecture of the rock hewn churches, the placement of the churches was not random or arbitrary.  Rather, the churches were built to take advantage of an artesian well system.  An artesian well is a well drilled into an aquifer that is under pressure from various layers of rock strata.  Due to this pressure, the water will have a tendency to rise to the surface when a well is drilled.  It is possible that the residents of the churches had running water which was supplied by the artesian system. It is quite clear that the Medieval Ethiopians were talented geologists as well as engineers.

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For centuries the rock hewn churches have been a focal point of pilgrimage for Coptic and Ethiopian Christians.  Even today, the churches are still used and serve as a center of holy pilgrimage.  Today the rock hewn churches of Lalibela are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Threats to the churches include encroaching development and damage done by tourists.  A few of the churches also have structural problems which the UN and Ethiopian government are working to fix.

Abune Yemata Guh- Ethiopia 

Abune Yemata Guh is an Ethiopian church, sitting 2,500 feet above ground. The church is a part of an extensive network of cave churches, which were carved into the sandstone cliffs of 1600 years ago. 

Ancient paintings on the domed ceilings of the churches depict the Apostles and various Saints.

KINGS of AXUM. Ezanas. Circa 300-350 AD. AE15mm. Struck after his conversion to Christianity in 330 AD. BACI LEYC, draped bust right in headcloth / +TOV TO APECH TH XWPA (May This [the cross] Please the Country), small cross in circle. Munro-Hay 52; BMC Aksum 90.

This week, another coin from the fascinating kingdom of Axum (Aksum). This time a small bronze from late in the history of the kingdom, just after the the king Ezana (Ezanas) converted to Christianity. Axum was among the first kingdoms to covert to Christianity and to publicly display its allegiance to the faith on coinage. Ezana is among the best-attested kings of Axum, largely due to his religious conversion, which was the result of the teachings of his Syrian tutor, Frumentius. Ezana was also in contact with the Roman Emperor Constantius II, who requested that Ezana prove that this Christianity was Orthodox by Roman standards. Ezana ignored these requests and established his own, independent church, the origin of the modern Ethiopian Orthodox Church (now in communion with the Coptic Orthodox Church). Today Ezana is a Saint in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Ezana was a powerful and influential king. His coins have been found as far away as India, proving that Axum in this period continued to be a powerful trading kingdom. Ezana was also a military commander who led campaigns into Meroe. Ezana’s coins have an interesting, unique feature, in that some, like this one, bear a legend on the reverse: “May this please the country.” While this cataloguer believes this legend refers to the cross, and, by implication, Christianity, scholars believe that Ezana hoped that the coinage would be met with approval, possible following upon economic difficulties. Whatever it refers to Ezana seems to have been concerned for the approval of his people.

anonymous asked:

Hey, I am a gay girl born into a Muslim family. The only time I was ever "religious" was as a kid when I was first learning about Islam. Growing up, I went through a lot and started losing faith. Now I feel like I cannot go back to the religion even if I wanted to because of my sexuality. I will never be accepted. I also feel like Islam prioritizes men and as a feminist that goes against what I believe in. Is there still room for me in this religion or should I start searching for another faith?

Hey so I crowdsourced a lot of this answer: [updating as I get more suggestions and resources]

Personally, I couldn’t be a Muslim and follow Islam if I didn’t find it feminist, full of social justice and intersectional. Unfortunately patriarchy and self interest tries to pass itself off as moralistic and religious —this is universal. Also it’s helpful to keep in mind that if any authority tries to tell you to hate and discriminate know that it isn’t from God or any moral compass—but fear. 

O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!

- The Holy Qur’an [4:135]

I believe the Prophet Muhammad [saw] was a radical-feminist-environmental anti-racist community organizer, activist and freedom fighter that believed in freeing people from the status quo and freeing them from oppression through Islam and Allah [swt]. And I believe in following that tradition.

“Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)

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About Lot/Lut:

Omar Pitras Waqar is working on a mechanical translation of the Qur’an without the diacriticals/vowels [which were added years after Muhammad’s death and during Uthman’s reign] says:

“…possibilities of this being reference to djinn/human interbreeding… or that it may have had to do with getting DNA, from angles/extraterrestrials which is still vile in a non consensual sense. Quran says the “sin” was something no creature had done before in all of the worlds (plural) so that rules out homosexual and gender variance which can be easily observed on earth in plants and animals let alone any number of beings from other planets or dimensions.”

More to support this: "Indeed, homosexuality was outside the mainstream of early rabbinic thought. It wasn’t until the New Testament and Palestinian reinterpretation of Genesis 19 that it became a significant theme. Some scholars explain this shift by citing intervening events. One was the apocryphal Book of Jubilees. In this book, it was alleged that the Sodomites had created a race of giants by having sexual relations with a group of gods, the “Watchers,” who lusted after mortal women. For this, the Sodomites were punished. The notion of “crime against nature” is a vestigial remnant of this legend, but also has scriptural roots.“ [from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/georgette-bennett-phd/sodom-and-gomorrah-revisited_b_2624684.html] Our Ethiopian Christian family has been maintaining this and other apocryphal texts many of which are repeated in the Quran like the story of Jesus turning clay birds into real living birds.

I am going to give an example of how much diacriticals/vowels make a difference.

1. From Quran.com
Surat Ash-Shu'ara [verse 165 - “Do you approach males among the worlds.“

2. Notice: “Worlds” possibly referring that’s some unseen/alien/jinn

3. Also the arabic word used for “males” could also be translated into “mates” or “rods”

4. “Do you approach mates among the worlds.” or “Do you approach rods among the worlds.” are possible translations

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I believe it was Aisha [ra] that had a close friend that was a hijra and didn’t wear a hijab, or covering around them. There was plenty of queer people in and around the Prophet Muhammad’s [s] life time.

I could name-drop Sufi saints [ahem, Rumi loved a man Shams] and poets from various times and places who violated norms of gender and sexuality on one level or another. Ali ibn Hamzah al-Asadi, more widely known as al-Kisa’i al-Kufi (d.804). As the transmitter of one of the Qur’an’s seven harfs (“readings”) in Sunni tradition, he’s an immeasurably important figure in the history of the Qur’an as a text. As such, his knowledge and character were both under close examination. In one assessment, al-Marzubani, speaking on the authority Ibn al-Arabi (the jurist, not the mystic), described al-Kisa’i as “one of the most learned persons” while adding that al-Kisa’i openly confessed to engaging in acts that included same-sex relations. “Yet,” he adds, al-Kisa’i remained “an accurate reader, knowledgeable in the Arabic language, and honest.” 

This does not answer all questions, but it offers something. In Sunni Islam, there are seven canonical ways of reading the Qur’an. Al-Kisa’i al-Kufi is the man who gave us one of them. He devoted his life to knowing and teaching the Qur’an. It should go without saying that al-Kisa’i al-Kufi memorized the entire scripture by heart and recited it every day of his life. Along the way, he apparently fucked dudes. The lips that he used to recite divine scripture also touched men.

““O people, we created you all from a male and female
And made you into different communities and different tribes
So that you should come to know one another
Acknowledging that the most noble among you 
Is the one most aware of God
Qur’an 49:13


The most noble is the one most aware of God. This is not just incitement for all Muslims to increase their awareness of God – it is also a warning to pursue a policy of social tolerance. The implication of this verse is that no Muslim is better than another because of any of the social categories that we use to classify ourselves, such as race, ethnicity, economic class, or gender. Or even sexual orientation. A gay or lesbian Muslim is no less than a heterosexual Muslim, except by the intangible criterion of pious awareness of God (taqwa). A transgender

Muslim is no less than other Muslims who have not struggled with their own gender identity and faced the stigma of changing gender classification, except by awareness of God. 

Most Muslims cherish reciting this verse to oppose the evils of racial superiority, ethnic chauvinism, and class arrogance. Yet some see this verse as a call to justice that rings far beyond its terse words.”
— Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, HOMOSEXUALITY IN ISLAM

El-Farouk Khaki, the founder of Salaam [a queer Muslim organization in Canada] says:  you can connect her w me, or with Daayiee Abdullah. my email is elfin925@rogers.com she can also join https://www.facebook.com/groups/99769188589/  el-Tawhid Juma Circle: Toronto Unity Mosque & learn that there is no singular, monolith Islam, and that for some, Islam is liberationary.

EFK and the rest of the leaders at el-Tawhid Juma Circle: Toronto Unity Mosque page make a point of emphasising the spiritual aspects of Islam and reducing focus on external elements. el-Tawhid Juma Circle: Toronto Unity Mosque group - wholly affirming and inclusive, with a focus on the spiritual and not so much the ritual.

Imam Daayiee Abdullah contact [the gay Imam in DC] (daayiee@aol.com). 

There’s also an Imam in Canada, TO who I know is pro-feminist, cool with gay Muslims and he asked me to give you his number if you would like it.

Some points

1) If you believe that God created you the way are, you can’t possible believe that God would reject you 2) The community you grew up in does not necessarily represent Islam 3) The beauty of Islam is that there is no intercession between you and God. You has every right and ability to pick up the Quran and find out what it means to you.  4) If you find things you can’t reconcile, you should speak to others who have found themselves in a similar situation. 5) 

thefatalfeminist.com

is a great starting point and introduction to feminism, Islam and social justice. 6) Islam does not prioritize men over women, the patriarchal actualization of Islam as seen through socially constructed norms prioritizes men over women, but that is a product of kyriarchy more than anything. If you want your faith to prioritize women, then do it.  7) Hit up Scott Kugle at Emory who could give you some nice readings and independent studies for Lesbianism or Queer identities and Islam. 

 From strawberreli [amazing Queer Muslim] !! http://strawberreli.tumblr.com/post/30642167690/queer-muslim-masterpost

queer muslim masterpost

This post pretty much came about because I was asked if I had resources for Muslims who were discovering or newly coming to terms with their sexuality. I didn’t, and the poor advice I had to offer was … poor. So, I pulled up a few of the blogs I followed that are targeted towards queer Muslims, and put together this little post for you!
Last updated: 06.14.16 (outdated info italicised)

Queer Muslim Blogs:

  • QueerMuslims
  • IamNotHaraam
  • Ace-Muslim
  • Trans Muslims
  • Ahwaa: An open space to debate LGBTQ-related issues in the Middle East
  • AllahMademeQueer
  • ComingOutMuslim
  • YouKnow-You'reaQueermuslim-When
  • InQueeries channel with Yusef Woof (contact inqueeriesshow@gmail.com)
  • Salaam Canada
  • TheBisexualBangladeshi
  • Muslims Against Homophobia and LGBT Hate facebook group
  • Queer Palestinian Empowerment Network (QPEN) facebook page
  • Queer Muslims of Boston facebook page
  • Totally Radical Muslim Zine

Queer Muslim 101:

  • A quick gender/sexuality 101 (An in-depth gender/sexuality/identity 201)
  • But what does a queer Muslim even look like? (hint: they look like people)
  • Defining homonationalism and pinkwashing. [A little bit more on pinkwashing.]
  • PDF:Homosexuality In Islam, by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle (Intro + 1st Chap) Buy your own copy!
  • A good read-along-with the above book, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad and an online article here.
  • PDF:Muslim LGBT Inclusion Project, by Intersections International
  • More reading (a list w.some repeats): [x]
  • Why Safe Spaces are Important [looking for a replacement link]
  • “I’m confused about my sexuality.”
  • “I need proof from Qur'an and Sunnah that I’m not Haraam.”
  • “What about the Qur'an and Hadith that chastise LGBTQ Muslims?”
  • “You cherry pick your hadith!/You cherry pick from your religion!”
  • Some hadiths can be read in different ways, so it’s best to look at the outcome.
  • “Islam and LGBT are not mutually exclusive.”
  • “But I was taught Islam was the most heterosexist religion.“  [tw: continuously moving background at the link]
  • ”But all Muslims are homophobic!“ (spoiler alert: you’re wrong.)
  • ”But Muslims hate sex - it’s ~dirty~ to them!“ (I would recommend this class for basic 101 on marriage and love [sex] in Islam. Take it with Basyouni.) (See also: x and x)
  • ”Love the sinner, hate the sin, and why that’s bullshit.“
  • ”Should I come out?“ (spoiler alert: that’s up to you!)
  • ”Is there a place for LGBTQ Muslims?“ (Or ”There’s no place for LGBTQ Muslims/no organisations/no hope.“)
  • ”Will LGBTQ Muslims go to hell?“ (spoiler alert: I’m not God, how would I know?)
  • ”But it’s unnatural!“ (lolk)
  • ”There aren’t any gay Imams or Sheikhs, so you’re just making things up!“ (Also here.) (And here.)
  • “But scholars don’t condone it!”
  • ”But no fatwa was made!“ (It’s Wahabi.)
  • Egyptian fatwa
  • Indonesian fatwa [link broken, seeking replacement]
  • A post about other Sheikhs’ opinions.
  • ”But there are no inclusive mosques for LGBT Muslims!“ (Just stop. x)
  • There is no place for homophobia in Islam.
  • Let’s repeat that: There is no place for homophobia in Islam.
  • Ayahs that talk about Prophet Lut.
  • A closer reading of ayahs re: homosexuality (prev here).
  • See also: You decide how you interpret your religion.
  • Homosexuality in Sharia
  • Homosexuality in Predominately Muslim Countries (and some more on homosexuality inPakistan)
  • Pride Parade in Bangladesh (Please remember “hijra” is a slur depending on where in South Asia a person is from – please ask before using it as a catchall!)
  • Predominately Muslim Countries who are taking steps toward equality. [x] [x, x] [x] [x] [x]
  • Same-sex marriage
  • MASGD Statement on SCOTUS Marriage Equality Ruling
  • Queer Muslim Cinema: Azizah, Illuminations, Coming Out Muslim, A Jihad For Love, I Exist, Al-Nisa [BONUS: Show Al-Nisa and Red Summer (the producer) some love!], Circumstance, Naz + Maalik, Gay Muslims (a documentary produced by Channel 4 in the U.K), City of Borders, The Bubble, Out in the Dark (Palestinian and Israeli fall in love. facebook page), Facing Mirrors (2011; ft. an FtM Iranian), I Accept Me! (2011), Hir Poem, My Child. Sexualities and Queer Imaginaries. Oriented. [Article about Oriented, A Gay Girl in Damascus, and A Sinner in Mecca] [Muslim Drag Queens][Color of Water is trying to get funded]
  • Queer Muslim Music: Tum Hi Ho (by a drag artist in Lahore).
  • Queer Muslim Literature: [x] [x] [Four Gay Arabs Break the Silence] [Embracing Ramadhan in the LGBT Muslim Community] [Gaylaxy magazine] [Queer Beirut] [Sex and Desperate Hearts] [Bareed Mista3jil] [Totally Radical Muslims Zine] [5 Queer Magazines] [Not Your Tragic Queer Muslim Story/How to De-Queer Your Apartment] [Brown and Queer in America] [Queer South Asians and the Politics of Family] [A Thing of the West] [Coming Out in the Muslim Community] [Queer and Muslim At the Same Time] [9 articles on being LGBTQ in MENA] [Queering the Middle East] [Seeking Home: The Lives of Gay and Transgender Asylum Seekers of the Middle East] [Trans Muslim Honours His Faith] [Under the Gay Skin of Tehran] [Syrian and Iraqi Members of the LGBT Community Find Safe Haven in Istanbul] [Queer and Muslim] [On Community Spaces and Being A Trans Muslim] [‘Yousef and Farhad’ has been crafted by Algerian-American political cartoonist, Khalil Bendib, and Iranian-American author, Amir Soltani.] [Artist Mohammed Fayaz Draws Queer Muslims of Colour] [Xukia]
  • Desi LGBTQ Hotline
  • Queer Pakistan LGBTQ Voice and Support Group [and here is a news article]
  • Resources

A good thing to remember is to avoid the self-hatred phase, if you can. Focus on loving yourself, and realising that Allah made you just the way you are, and that you are loved, and that none of this is permanent. If this phase is unavoidable, here are some helpful sites:

  • Help! I’m losing my Islam
  • Counseling and Prevention Resources
  • Feeling suicidal?
  • Suicide prevention
  • Supporting someone who self-harms
  • Suicide and Crisis Hotlines
  • Online Crisis Network (for those with anxiety which prevents them from talking on the phone)
  • Online Chat (Arabic) for Queer Arabs

If you are a student and would like to get Faisal Alam to speak at your uni, or to see if he is coming to your uni soon, click here.

If you would like to attend Faisal Alam’s Retreat for Queer Muslims and their partners, here is more info.

If you would like to book Irshad Manji for an event click here.

If you are a PoC LGBTQ identified Muslim, QWOC is looking for submissions.

If you are from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or India and want to share your experiences (anonymously), please click here.

If you are South Asian and queer, consider submitting to Dayaar-e-Yaar! And if you are South Asian, queer, and between 18-25, consider attending this SoCal retreat (deadline for 2015 registration is Dec. 8th, 2014).

If you are a young activist, an independent researcher, a graduate student, or a fresh graduate, consider submitting a paper to the second issue of Kohl,  a journal for body and gender in the MENA region that wishes to explore the ways in which the erotic has been used as a means of economic and political exploitation in the MENA, within the region and outside it. Deadline to submit is Aug 2, 2015.

If you can spare some funds, help navigatethestream, a queer Muslim, become an Imam to help the Muslim LGBT community!

Lastly, here is a link if you are NOT a queer Muslim, but want to be a good ALLY! (And here is another on how NOT to be a saviour!) (And here is another on how to support a queer Muslim you happen to be dating!)

Muslim-Queer-Friendly Blogs:

(

If you’d like to be added to or taken off this list, please

send me an ask

.

)

  • occupidemuslim
  • hijabandboijeans
  • khalvatdaranjuman
  • navigatethestream
  • life-via-fo-eyes
  • living-in-technicolor
  • misandryad
  • mizjtoz
  • thalamtnafsee
  • alscientist
  • shootmethenleave
  • dyemelikeasunset
  • faineemae
  • seppin
  • gschwarzkopf
  • sllw
  • linzthenerd
  • vaginashavefeelingstoo
  • anartinsorcery
  • treatquestion
  • themadmanwithapen
  • ancientrune
  • sura93
  • insecurity-killed-the-cat
  • thehakawati
  • qalbesaleem
  • the-best-medicine
  • thesoundofthelifeofthemind
  • findingmotherland
  • shegufta
  • agileduck
  • zahhaked
  • megavelraptor
  • eibmorb
  • maesio
  • pyar-kiya-to-darna-kiya
  • postmodernveil
  • kuroenigma
  • safawi
  • casketofpearls
  • theyhelitsian
  • nofasciststate
  • chirikli
  • cokehabitsdiehard
  • decimaldot
  • madeast
  • lesbehalaaal
  • 4th-world
  • themindislimitless
  • brassmanticore
  • humjinsiyat
  • Freedom2Be
  • i-dare-to-dream
  • babyairnymph
  • twelvewhispersandbooks
  • whatamievensaying
  • whimslcott
  • haramdaddy
  • hiraethghost
  • larriefthalsey
  • t-pizzazz-a
  • young-flowerchild
  • zhangyixings
  • hairyjamespottery

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More papers/books not previously mentioned: 

BEYOND BINARY BARZAKHS: USING THE THEME OF LIMINALITY IN ISLAMIC THOUGHT TO QUESTION THE GENDER BINARY by Sara Haq Hussaini

The Quilt & Other Stories [translated from Urdu]

American Muslim Women, Religious Authority, and Activism: More Than a Prayer (Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series)

Muslim Girl Article Did Homosexuality Exist Among Islamic Scholars? http://muslimgirl.com/25788/homosexuality-islam-academic-analysis/

FB Page: Muslims Against Homophobia and LGBT Hate

“Mukhannathun – and singular mukhannath – has been translated as “gay,” “queer,” even “third gender,” and none of these are wrong, per se. However, there’s a history behind the word that’s much richer. It all starts with hadith.“  

from” A Muslim RuPaul At The Dawn Of Islam: Tuwais and the Mukhannathun”: http://www.autostraddle.com/a-muslim-rupaul-at-the-dawn-of-islam-tuwais-and-the-mukhannathun-198612/

The Roots of Homophobia and Anti-Gay Sentiment in the Muslim World (by Ali Olomi)

Sublime Quran [a feminist translation] pdf by Laleh Bakhtiar

QURAN A Reformist Translation pdf Translated and Annotated by Edip Yuksel Layth Saleh al-Shaiban Martha Schulte-Nafeh 

Extensive, long but great read: Islamic Law, Homosexuality and the ‘Pulse’ Massacre by Shaykh Atabek

Aljazeera Article on Indonesia’s Trans Imams: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/5/12/indonesias-transgender-priests-face-uncertain-future.html

Same-Sex Relationships & the Fluidity of Marriage in Islamic History (by Ali A. Olomi)

St. Moses the Ethiopian,

St. Moses the Ethiopian was an early Christian monk who lived in 4th century Egypt.  One day while traveling alone through the desert he was attacked by a heavily armed band of outlaws.  Using only his hands he beat the snot out of the robbers, tied them up, and dragged them back to his monastery.  The robbers would later become his first converts.

I’d been meaning to make a rec list for a while, but now I’m finally getting around to it! I’ve read or started to read most of the books on this list, and I own 95% of them. If I haven’t read it, but someone has recommended it to me, I’ve included it. I know that there are books I’ve read or have been meaning to read that aren’t on here because my memory is shit and I never write anything down. Titles link to Goodreads.

An asterisk (*) indicates a book I haven’t read yet. A pound sign (#) indicates a book I haven’t read yet, but which others have recommended. A tilde (~) indicates a book I’m in the process of reading and would recommend up to the current point (aka “I don’t know if this book has a terrible second half, but so far it’s good”). Italics indicate a personal favorite.

Fiction:

Nonfiction:

Cookbooks:

Feel free to add others! 

Tagging shiraglassman and newlyjewly​, re: the “books” ask.

anonymous asked:

i always thought that christianity came to africa from europe through like missionaries and colonialism... do you have any like readings or something? or would google have something like i'm intrigued now i feel silly for not sort of thinking more about it

Yeah, sure. The first African Christian was actually the Ethiopian who‘s conversion story is recounted in Acts 8 - one of the earliest Christians in general. Christianity spread throughout all of Northern Africa in it’s early years, and many of the most prominent early saints and theologians were Africans. Saint Cyprian, Saint Moses the Black, Tertullian, Saint Perpetua, Saint Felicitas, and Saint Augustine (probably the most influential Christian theologian of all time) are all examples of early African Christian saints and theologians. Many of them were Berbers, which is a tribe indigenous to North Africa. Christianity had been spreading all around Ethiopia for years as well, and it became official in 330 C.E. when King Ezana converted and declared it the state religion of Ethiopia (which, you’ll notice, is decades prior to when it became the state religion of the Roman Empire, which happened in 380 C.E.) Some of these people are depicted as European white people in European art (notably Saint Augustine), but they were actually African Berbers or Ethiopians.

Christianity didn’t spread to other parts of Africa, and when Islamic Civilization came in 700 C.E., it’s influence waned (although not in Ethiopia, where they remained Christian and still remain majority Christian, all still linking back to the earliest Christian communities), so it did eventually take European Colonialism to spread it to Southern and Western Africa. But there is no doubt that Africans played an extremely prominent role in the development of Christianity. Africans have been Christians since the very beginning, and they significantly shaped the religion itself.

People coming out of the Church of Saint George in Lalibela. Ethiopia. ©Mekdes Maskal

Church of Saint George is one of the 11 Rock-Hewn Churches in Lalibela that are UNESCO world heritage sites. The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilmigrage and devotion.

theguardian.com
Earliest known biography of an African woman translated to English for the first time
Ethiopian noblewoman Walatta Petros left her husband to stop the spread of Roman Catholicism, possibly fell in love with a fellow nun and was elevated to sainthood
By Alison Flood

The earliest known book-length biography of an African woman, a 17th-century text detailing the life of the Ethiopian saint Walatta Petros, has been translated into English for the first time.

Walatta Petros was an Ethiopian religious leader who lived from 1592 to 1642. A noblewoman, she left her husband to lead the struggle against the Jesuits’ mission to convert Ethiopian Christians to Roman Catholicism. It was for this that the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥədo Church elevated her to sainthood.

Walatta Petros’s story was written by her disciples in the Gəˁəz language in 1672, after her death. Translator and editor Wendy Laura Belcher, an associate professor at Princeton University, came across the biography while she was studying Samuel Johnson’s translation, A Voyage to Abyssinia. “I saw that Johnson was fascinated by the powerful noble Ethiopian women in the text,” said Belcher. “I was speaking with an Ethiopian priest about this admiration and he told me that the women were admired in Ethiopia as well, where some of them had become saints in the Ethiopian church and had had hagiographies written about them.”

Ten years later, Belcher still remembers how “thrilling” this revelation was. “What? Biographies of powerful African women written by Africans in an African language? And to be able to pair European and African texts about the same encounter? I knew then I wouldn’t rest until I had translated this priceless work into English.”

Belcher learned Gəˁəz in order to translate Walatta Petros’s biography, working first with the Ethiopian priest, and then with the translator Michael Kleiner. “As a biography, it is full of human interest, being an extraordinary account of early modern African women’s lives — full of vivid dialogue, heartbreak, and triumph. For many, it will be the first time they can learn about a pre-colonial African woman on her own terms,” she said.

The biography has now been published in English by Princeton University Press as The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros. It has only been translated into two other languages before: Amharic and Italian, the latter in the 1970s.

While researching the text, Belcher discovered that the biography contained the earliest known depiction of same-sex desire among women in sub-Saharan Africa, an element she said was “censored” from the manuscript that the 1970s Italian edition was based on.

Belcher writes in the book’s preface that while she and Kleiner were translating the story from the Italian edition, they came across a “perplexing anecdote about a number of community members dying because some nuns had pushed each other around”. Kleiner suspected the manuscript had “been miscopied, perhaps deliberately, in order to censor the original, or merely by accident”, and speculated that “the nuns were not fighting but flirting with each other”.

After consulting with several Ethiopian scholars and looking at digitised copies of the original manuscripts, Kleiner and Belcher found the uncensored manuscript concurred. They translated the line as Petros seeing “some young nuns pressing against each other and being lustful with each other, each with a female companion.”

“This is the earliest anecdote we know of in which African women express desire for other women,” writes Belcher.

The academic also pointed to Walatta Petros’s relationship with her fellow nun Eheta Kristos, describing their first encounter with each other as “rapturous”. The text says that “love was infused into both their hearts, love for one another, and… they were like people who had known each other” their whole lives. Walatta Petros and Kristos “lived together in mutual love, like soul and body. From that day onward the two did not separate, neither in times of tribulation and persecution, nor in those of tranquillity, but only in death”.

“There is no doubt that the two women were involved in a lifelong partnership of deep, romantic friendship,” Belcher writes.

Identifying them as lesbians would be “anachronistic” partly because Walatta Petros was “deeply committed to celibacy”, she told the Guardian.

“Many Ethiopians are quite upset about my comments about the saint, my interpretations of her relationship with Eheta Kristos,” she said. “Part of this upset is due to not understanding my point. I think she was a sincere, celibate nun, but that she also felt desire for other women and that she was in a life-long celibate partnership with Eheta Kristos.”

The New Propaganda Video released by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) shows the killing of a group of Ethiopian Christians in Libya. In the shocking graphic video ISIS gunmen shoot and behead the captured group of Ethiopians. The video is 29 minutes long and at one point said “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,” but it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government’s actions in Somalia. Various reports state that there are more than 28 men who were brutally murdered by the terrorist group.

The video begins with the history of Christian-Muslim relation. It also features the destruction of churches, icons and Christian monuments by masked men.

The Ethiopian government is in contact with their embassy in Cairo to verify the authenticity of the Video. The speculations are that these group of Ethiopians might be immigrants who were trying to reach Europe for a better livelihood.

Lord Have Mercy.