ACN News 10/8/2007
"Pilgrimage of Hope" - a signpost for mutual understanding
Ethiopian groupís overland journey to Addis Abeba to celebrate millennium
(With photo of vehicle funded by ACN)
Nineteen expatriate Ethiopians of different religious faiths have set out in a small fleet of cars from the Hague, Holland, on a special pilgrimage - the "Amen Ethiopia Pilgrimage of Hopeď.
Their final destination is the Ethiopian capital, Addis Abeba. The group of predominantly young people is hoping to reach the Ethiopian capital by the 12th of September at the latest, so that they can celebrate New Year's Day there - since according to the Ethiopian calendar this day is January 1 of the Year 2000.
Their 40-day journey will take them through Europe, Asia and Africa. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) helped fund one of the vehicles.
The members of the group are hoping by means of their journey to express their solidarity with their mother country and at the same time to appeal for a nationwide reflection on how to bring about a better society in Ethiopia. The Pilgrimage of Hope aims to bear witness to the riches of diversity in the country and call for spiritual unity in the new millennium.
One of the pilgrims, Samra, a Catholic from Texas, USA, hopes the journey will bring about a new awareness of the need for peace. "In this group of young people I have an opportunity to gain an insight into the different religious perspectives", she told ACN, adding that she feels she can learn a great deal from those of other religions or denominations.
As for Jonas, who is Orthodox and lives in the Netherlands, the central issue is peace. "We want people in Ethiopia to come together in the third millennium", he says. Jonas is not looking for a grand New Year's festival. Instead he sees this day as the starting date for changes in Ethiopia. "People there must reflect more on their own problems and strive together to find solutions for the country", he adds, adding that this is also the task of the different religious communions and ethnic groups.
Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, a great-nephew of the last Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie, told ACN that he sees the Pilgrimage of Hope as a signpost for the future. He hopes it will contribute to a new spirit of peace in Ethiopia. He also wants the pilgrimage to "reinforce the enormous presence of ecumenism between the Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church". The Prince is hoping the approaching millennium celebrations will mark a milestone of understanding among the numerous different ethnic groups who live side by side in Ethiopia. The 58-year-old management consultant added, "My wish is that the new millennium can be an era in which the three Abrahamic religions can live side by side as brothers and sisters."
Two priests serving the Ethiopian faithful in the Netherlands, Abba Tesfamariam L. Mersha, who Is Ethiopian Orthodox and Abba Petros S. Berga, who is Catholic, will be accompanying the Pilgrimage of Hope. Both men believe that this religiously mixed group of pilgrims can bear special witness to the idea of unity in diversity. The discussions and contacts made during the pilgrimage can, they believe, contribute to overcoming the problems which exist in their home country. They are hoping above all for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual respect.
After their arrival in Addis Abeba, the vehicle funded by ACN will be given to the Theological College of the Holy Trinity in order to serve the only theological institution of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia. ACN over the years has supported a number of ecumenical projects for the Orthodox Church.
For further information please contact the Sydney office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148. Web: www.aidtochurch.org