The beginnings of the cruciform faith in Ethiopia, the largest nation mounted on the horn of Africa, begin near the beginning itself. Somewhere along the dusty road to Gaza, a galilean named Philip—later crowned Philip the Evangelist—encounters a foreigner, a court official returning to his queen. There in the desert, the evangelist entrusts this acquaintance with news to deliver back to his home.
Three centuries later, King Ezana the Great declares that the water discovered in that arid place so long ago will be the drink for all his people. He gives Ethiopia a state religion. For this, his people would continue on in Christendom as a revered people, representing an ancient dynasty of faith.
On Monday, April 18, South Sudanese gunmen crossed the border into Ethiopia and murdered over 200 innocents. Additionally, over 100 were kidnapped, dragged away from the small plots that marked their homes, and over 2000 livestock were stolen out of the country.
The assailants, as mentioned, were from South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation. Thousands in South Sudan have been killed in recent years, and more than two million have left their homes due to fear of war. The border attack on Ethiopia is only a single instance of the mayhem occurring in that small region of the world.
Today as the Habesha people continue to respond to this event, both with mourning and with rage, they do so upon a thoroughly Christian foundation. Ethiopia is home to the only pre-colonial Christian church of Africa and is the largest of all the Oriental Orthodox churches. It also boasts an overwhelming Christian population amidst an ocean of North African Islam.
And yet they suffer. This Christian and—by most measures of the word—holy nation suffers.
Ethiopia is a nation state demonstrating writ large the problem of pain. It unmistakably declares that Christians, those claiming an intimate connection to the Creator, are not immune from the perils of earthly life. They are un-unique in this way. They are instead relegated to stand at the watchpost, to be stationed at the tower, and look out to see what He will say, how He will answer our complaints.