In the course of researching on Christianity in Africa, I came in contact with some mind-blowing strategy that the people of Ethiopia used to sustain Christianity in their country.
Najid Mohammed, who is president of the Washington, DC-based Federation of Ethiopian Muslims in North America, wrote in an article titled, “An African Nation is the Muslims’ First Refuge”: “History has shown that the first migration to Ethiopia and the second migration to Medina have indeed laid down the foundation on which Islam, as a universal religion, was built. Ever since that experience, the Muslim community, wherever they settled, shifted from the positive of minority to majority, from weakness to permanent strength, from tribalism to universal brotherhood that knows no defined political boundaries.” The above statements is true. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world as of today. They settle as a minority group and gradually shift to become the majority. They have achieved this task in almost all the countries in Africa where they have invaded except Ethiopia. There is something we really need to learn from Ethiopian Christians on how they were able to sustain Christianity despite all odds. Almost all the countries bordering Ethiopia are Islamic nations. How did they survive Islamic expansion? Historical record shows that Islam got to Ethiopia before Medina and Mecca, and the CIA’s The World Factbook shows that Ethiopia has 67.3% Christian (Ethiopian Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic) population and 31.3% Muslim population.
There is something out-of-box about the modus operandi of the Ethiopian Church that enabled them to firmly stand amid strong challenges. If these strategies are adopted, they can aid us Nigerian Christians in missionary training and deployment of work force to reach the unreached and sustain Christianity in Nigeria. A look at the various strategies by the Ethiopian Church shows that the missionaries were able to bring kings and community leaders to the saving power of Christ. These leaders served as persons of peace who facilitated the penetration of the Gospel to many communities. They brought some notable national leaders to Christ, and this facilitated the planting of churches in many provinces in Ethiopia. Among them are Zara Ya Kob, who was an emperor in Ethiopia from 1434-1468, and Lebna Dengel, who was an Ethiopian emperor from 1508-1540. This strategy did not only aid conversion but it also protected Christians during attacks and persecutions. It also helped that the Syrian Church continuously sent missionaries to Ethiopia, even while Ethiopia was raising enough missionaries on its own. What resulted was Ethiopia had no lack of missionaries for evangelism. Also, churches in Ethiopia worked very hard to produce Bibles in their own local languages and church services were conducted in indigenous dialects. This made communication of the Gospel easier and the story of the Bible was more realistic to the people as they used Bibles written in their mother tongues. It is not effective to plant churches in unreached areas and communicate to the people in the English language as seen in many of our churches in metropolitan areas of northern Nigeria.
There was a strong synergy in Ethiopia between the church and the state to protect Christianity and enhance evangelization of the unreached. Christian government officials in Ethiopia defended their Christian faith with everything within their ability and this yielded wonderful result. The challenge in Nigeria is that most government officials are not ready to stick out their neck in defense of the Christian faith. We need to intensify prayers for God to raise Christ followers supreme in the nation.
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