Faith and Mystery
"Faith and mystery" is an anthropological work made in the north of Ethiopia, in Tigray Region on the Coptic Orthodox Church and its cultural and religious identity. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is the only native Ethiopian Christian Church, of ancient tradition. And has between 40 and 45 million members, most of whom live in Ethiopia, it is thus considered the largest, among all Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Over the centuries, the faithful have been victim of numerous attacks and violence abroad and in Ethiopia, and they are now facing many political and socio-cultural changes taking place in the country. Only a few years ago, hundreds of Ethiopian Christian Orthodox faithful, were forced to abandon their homes in the villages in west-central Ethiopia, after several fires of churches and homes. Some Ethiopian opposition networks, led by the Ethiopian Heritage Society of North American (EHSNA), are denouncing the attack that the Ethiopian government is waging against some areas of the country for the implementation of infrastructure projects and business that would lead to the destruction of some eighteen places of worship, including ancient monasteries and churches - some of which have already been included in the list of World Heritage Sites of the United Nations.
Even during the socio-economic and political changes that have crossed the country in recent decades, the religious identity of the Coptic Orthodox Church has remained strong and deeply rooted in his faithful.
The Timkat, Epiphany which celebrates the baptism of Christ, and St. George, with which celebrate the national patron, are among the most important holidays for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In these days, in the city of Axum and Lalibela, thousands of faithful wrapped in white veils keep watch all night the Tabot (copies of the Ark of the alliance), and praying in candle light. During these days, they celebrate weddings, blessings, vigils, according to the ancient rituals.
Take part in these liturgies, means immersing yourself in faith and solemnity of Christianity in its most ancient form, austere and mysterious.
You do not need to be a believer, just be present to hear the time you stop, and breathe the mystery that surrounds these ancient sites full of legends. In a country where poverty is everywhere and the ground does not give anything without hard work and sweat, faith is a firm rock, and thousands of believers, walking for a long distances to participate in the sacred rites and receive the priest’s blessing.
Walk in silence through the streets of Axum and Lalibela in these days, means listening to the prayers whispered in dark corners of the churches or under the white veil of the women, it means to participate in the mysterious rites of one of the oldest churches in the world