Insights from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) has exhibited exceptional leadership in the face of a leadership crisis impacting millions in Ethiopia. The church has a rich history in Ethiopia and Africa, having made significant contributions to the advancement of Christianity. This includes Bible translation and distribution, education, preserving literature and historical records, and defending the country from outside colonizers. The significance of the EOTC is further highlighted by UNESCO’s recognition as a World Heritage site, acknowledging its significant impact on Ethiopia’s rich cultural and religious heritage.
I care for my country Ethiopia. I am deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis, which is fueled by ethnic divisions. In this blog post, I will share the four leadership lessons I observed from the EOTC’s response to the current crisis from mid-January 2023 to the 11th of February 2023.
In his book Managing Leadership Anxiety, Steven Cuss defines leadership as knowing what to do. The EOTC leaders, through prayer and fasting, integrity, boldness, and clear communication, have effectively responded to the crisis.
The crisis in Ethiopia stems from an ethnic-based political structure that has divided the country, including its churches. In response, the EOTC, as a believer in the God of the Holy Bible, called for a three-day national prayer and fasting time, with its priests and members wearing black sackcloth. This drew large crowds to the EOTC church, overflowing to streets and villages throughout the country. The church made a clear announcement that her plea for justice and unity would continue unless the government changed its course and became willing to discuss the matter urgently.
Despite the government’s initial cancellation of the peaceful public demonstration, the EOTC stood its ground and continued with her request. This led to the government opening its door for the leadership of the EOTC, led by Holy Patriarch Abune Mathias, to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his cabinet, resulting in a swift change in the government’s political and divisive agenda. The religious, legal, and political negotiations are ongoing, and the full results are yet to be seen.
The first leadership lesson from the EOTC’s response to the crisis is the significance of prayer and fasting. The church rightfully called for three days of prayer and fasting with its priests and members wearing black sackcloth. This demonstrates the church’s reliance on God rather than earthly power. The church drew support from other religious communities, including Catholic, Evangelical, and Muslim, as well as the Interfaith Council of Ethiopian Religions.
The second leadership lesson is the EOTC’s upholding of integrity. The church upheld its integrity by following biblical principles and a peaceful, legal process despite the opposition of those in power. The EOTC also showed respect and dignity to humanity, as all people are created in the image of God, and opposed ethnic divisions, killing innocent people, and preventing self-appointed politically motivated groups from taking over part of the EOTC.
The third leadership lesson is the EOTC leader’s boldness in the face of danger. As Darcy Eikenberg defines leadership as “The courage to do the right things even when they are hard.” The EOTC remained determined to stand by its faith despite the political turmoil. The church guided its members to practice spiritual and peaceful activities over violence, demonstrating exceptional spiritual leadership.
The fourth leadership lesson is the EOTC’s clear and transparent communication. The priests communicated regularly with grace and favor to their members and the nation, unifying the members within the country and the diaspora and mobilizing support for their cause globally. Additionally, Abune Petros, the Secretary-General of the Holy Synod, redirected political issues outside the church and kept the church’s business focused on spiritual matters. This approach aligns with Jesus’s response to those who sought to twist his teachings and asked him, “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar?” (Matthew 22:17). The EOTC’s clear communication and separation of spiritual and political matters demonstrates how leaders can maintain their focus on their core mission and values, even in challenging circumstances.
In conclusion, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) has demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of a crisis that has impacted millions in Ethiopia.
1. Prayer and fasting
2. Upholding integrity
3. Exhibiting boldness
4. Clear communication, the EOTC has shown valuable leadership lessons that can be learned from their response to the crisis. By following the EOTC’s leadership example, individuals and organizations can navigate leadership crises with wisdom, integrity, courage, and effective communication.
I pray this movement in EOTC brings a continued spiritual revival in the nation and leadership transformation in the country.
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