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Aksum: The holy city where mosques are banned


For Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, the historic metropolis of Aksum is a sacred location, dwelling to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant.

The ark is believed to include the 10 commandments handed down to Moses by God, and is mentioned to be underneath the guard of monks in the metropolis.

Some Muslim groups are campaigning to make a mosque in the metropolis – a suggestion rejected by Christian leaders, declaring they would relatively die. 

“Aksum is our Mecca,” declares senior cleric Godefa Merha, who thinks that just as churches are banned in Islam’s holiest site, mosques can’t exist in Aksum.

“Aksum is a holy put. This metropolis is a monastery,” claims Mr Godefa, the deputy head of Askum’s Our Woman Mary of Zion Church.

This extended-held place of Orthodox Christians is now at the centre of controversy as some Muslims are rallying underneath the banner “Justice for Aksum Muslims” to need the correct to establish a mosque in the metropolis, and to give their contact to prayer – “Allah is the best” – on loudspeakers.

A lot of people see the controversy as unlucky for the reason that the Kingdom of Aksum, a single of the world’s greatest ancient civilisations, was at the time famed for its religious tolerance. 

In accordance to followers of both religions, Muslims first arrived in the kingdom quickly soon after the introduction of Islam in all over 600Advert as migrants fleeing persecution at the arms of Mecca’s then non-Muslim rulers.

The Christian king welcomed them with open up arms, and gave Islam its initial existence outside the Arabian Peninsula. 

Currently, Muslims make up about 10% of Aksum’s inhabitants of around 73,000 inhabitants – with 85% of them being Orthodox Christians and the remaining 5% belonging to other Christian denominations. 

‘Muslims forced to pray outside’ 

Muslim resident Abdu Mohammed Ali, who is in his 40s, reported his household has for generations rented Christian-owned houses to offer Muslims with locations of worship.

This is the marketplace in an space of Aksum where quite a few Muslims live

“We have 13 short-term mosques. On Friday, if they [some Christians] listen to us using loudspeakers, they say we are denigrating St Mary,” he complains.

Aziz Mohammed, a traditional health practitioner who has lived in Aksum for 20 years, states some Muslims are pressured to pray in the open up simply because of the absence of mosques.

“Here, we, Muslim and Christian, dwell together. The Christians do not prohibit us from praying but for several years, numerous of us have been praying in the street. We will need a mosque,” he states.

The topic is evidently creating some rigidity between the communities. Mr Abdu was hesitant to talk to me, an Orthodox Christian, and only did so following significantly persuasion and checking my identity, although Mr Aziz, who was born to a Christian mom and Muslim father, refused to be drawn even further on the matter, only mentioned: “Below you reside fearing just about every other.”

‘We want to dwell in peace’

Identical dissimilarities surfaced in Aksum about 50 several years ago when Emperor Haile Selassie was in ability in Ethiopia.

The city’s then-chief, a member of the royal loved ones, struck a compromise which observed Muslims build a mosque some 15km (9.3 miles) absent in the town of Wukiro-Maray.

Muslims in Wukiro-Maray, close to Aksum, can decide on from five mosques

Through a take a look at to the city, which also has a vast majority Christian inhabitants, I achieved Keriya Mesud who was cooking for Muslim worshippers when they have been praying. 

Pointing out that 5 mosques now exist in Wukiro-Maray, Ms Keriya stated: “Although we have to have a mosque in Aksum, we are not able to pressure them. What we will need is to live in peace.”

Mr Godefa says the two communities do stay in peace, adding that the men and women of the two Abrahamic faiths have much in popular.

His greatest pal is a Muslim, he claims, and they arrive together for weddings, funerals and other events.

‘Only Christian hymns’

He thinks that Muslims from other areas of Ethiopia are guiding the marketing campaign to develop a mosque. 

But he vows that Orthodox Christians will in no way crack the oath offered to their fathers and grandfathers to preserve the “sanctity” of Aksum.

Kingdom of Aksum

– Grew to become loaded and impressive by way of manage of Pink Sea trade, lasting from all over the 1st to the 8th hundreds of years Advertisement.

– Fremnatos – regarded as Frumentius in Europe – launched Christianity, which was adopted as its formal religion in 333Advertisement

– In accordance to community legend, the Queen of Sheba travelled from Aksum to Jerusalem to stop by King Solomon

– Their son, Menelik I, is stated to have brought again the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem right after likely to check out his father

– No-a person is allowed to see the Ark in the Our Girl Mary of Zion Church

– Orthodox Christian churches will have to have a tabot, which is a replica of the Ark, to be recognised as a position of worship

– The ruins of the historical city of Aksum are a UN Entire world Heritage Web page

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