Religious observations like Iftar have pivotal roles not only in strengthening mutual respect but also in promoting tolerance, accommodate diversity and uphold harmony among the people, according to religious fathers.
A member of the Ethiopian Ulema, Fatwa and Da’awa Council, Sheikh Mustapha Mohammed told The Ethiopian Herald that the practice creating platforms for peoples of different faiths create better understanding of religions and values they attached to peaceful coexistence.
Sheikh Mustapha stated that the widespread communal religious observations between peoples of different religions is among the contributing factors Ethiopia being a place of religious tolerance in the contrast to religious conflicts that persists around the globe.
He said, “the presence of followers of other religions at the Iftar ceremony shows the huge importance the event has for sustaining the long cherished value of tolerance and mutual coexistence in the society.”
Suleiman Mohammed, 43, was born in Dessie, a town where the followers of both Muslims and non-Muslims live peacefully for ages.
Suleiman said that Iftar is one of the religious festivals that non-Muslim friends and neighbors have been invited by their Muslim brothers.
The fact that people with different faiths taking part in Iftar have significant roles for paving ways for them to exchange views about their livelihoods and maintaining the long lasting culture of accommodating differences, he added.
According to Suleiman, “such religious observations serve as bases to enable people with different religions working together to common agenda of peace and development as well as nation building. They are also platforms to recognize and respect differences and shun radicalized viewpoints.”
Seifu Solomon, a Christian, on his part said that he has been taking part in numerous Iftar ceremonies with his neighbors and friends over many years.
He indicated that such events enable people to realize all religions taught, the need to live in harmony and evils of radicalism. ” Involving in religious observation as of Iftar would help people with different faiths to respect differences. It also have considerable vantages to maintain Ethiopia’s age-old culture of religious tolerance.”
He added that religious observations, besides their religious values, have laid the foundations for peace and coexistence in the country,
Ethiopian Muslims highly valued the peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims. The growing movement by Wahhabists; ultra-conservative Islamic group; however, attempted to disrupt this peaceful relation.
Sheikh Mustapha said, “religious leaders should use the Ramadan month in activities to boost inter-religious harmony and preach the congregation for peace and unity among Muslims and non-Muslims to mobilize their participation for building the democratic system and enhancing the economic growth. “
The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council should play a leading role to preserve the tolerance and avoidance of religious-based conflicts by advising the laity to shun radicalized view of the religion, he added.
Hailemichael Woldesenbet, a priest in St. Mary Church, agrees on this fact saying the destructive act of these forces are not only at- tempting to impose their will on the public violently and obstruct the peaceful spread of religion but also disturb the peace of the country, which is an unacceptable deed.
He said, “Greater emphasis needs to be placed on educating the new generation towards religious tolerance and building a tolerant society at large.”
Religious intolerance becomes more dangerous when it is exploited to attain political ambition of an individual or interest group in that they often try to manipulate public opinion with misinformation and prejudice on a certain religious affiliation, he added.
He also emphasized that all stakeholders should strive to retire the influence of those interest groups by paving a way access to pluralistic information that would allow them to differentiate between facts and stereotypical opinions as well as discredit hateful propaganda.
Unless stakeholders work in concert to repulse the destructive efforts of some interest groups, Ethiopia’s age-long history of accommodating people of various religions could be endangered.
Vigilant protection of such cultures do not be destroyed by fundamentalists and extremists who have other agendas rather than religion has become the order of the day since recent years.
Religious observations are central to maintain the tradition of peaceful co-existence among different faiths that has been existed for centuries. If religious stakeholders manage to maintain the peaceful coexistence of the Ethiopian people, the country’ vision to ensure its renaissance would be a reality.
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