Catholic Schools Persevere in Ethiopia as Sources of Hope

Editors’ Note: In “Hope for a Peaceful Future” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine, Hikma A. Abdulmejid reports on the church’s efforts to care for young people in Ethiopia as regional conflicts persist. In her audio report, she talks about her interactions with religious men and women who lead schools in these regions, and how they are a bright light amid conflict. A full transcript is available below.

Listen to the audio report:

As I journeyed back from touring Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar to the monastery of the Daughters of Charity, which is in the school’s compound itself, a rich scent of traditional Ethiopian incense greeted me upon entering the house. Following the aroma, I found myself in the living room, where coffee was served in our honor, a cherished Ethiopian tradition for welcoming guests.

Expressing my admiration for the incense to Sister Weinitu, I mentioned how I would have loved to procure it for myself. Without hesitation, Sister Weinitu arranged it for someone to fish the incense from the market, a gesture of kindness that warmed my heart.

Months prior, I had explored several cities in the Amhara region, sensing an underlying tension in the air. However, upon my return for this assignment, the atmosphere had shifted dramatically. The trauma was noticeable in the weary gazes of the locals, a subtle yet unmistakable mistrust lingering in their eyes. Feeling a sense of unease, I realized the gravity of the situation.

With roads barricaded since August of 2023, the only option was to fly into the region. Despite the turmoil, both Bahir Dar and Gondar welcomed me and the cameraman with open arms. We were provided refuge in the monasteries we visited, prioritizing our safety amidst the chaos.  At Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School in Bahir Dar, Sisters Weinitu, Telfatu and Gannet extended their hospitality, while in Gondar, it was Father Tamiru and his fellow monks.

Before my journey to Bahir Dar, I had the opportunity to meet with Father Lesanuchristos Matheos, the bishop of the Eparchy of Bahir Dar-Dessie during his visit to Addis Ababa. He shared a poignant letter detailing the struggles faced by communities caught in the conflict, invoking the biblical lamentation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His words echoed in my mind as I continued my travels, further emphasized by Father Lesanuchristos during my stay in Bahir Dar.

I must mention that both the sisters at the Blessed Gebremichael Catholic School and the monks at the Debre Selam Mariam Catholic School cultivate a diverse range of vegetables and fruits in their monastery gardens. Additionally, they raise cattle for dairy products. I was truly impressed by their dedication for caring for their surroundings and their commitment to organic farming practices.

In both locations, it was an emotional experience to witness the schools’ efforts in supporting children in need, from school feeding to providing sponsorship and affordable education.

Guided by Father Tamiru, I also visited St. Raphael Catholic School for visually impaired children in Gondar, where Sister Haregewein Kiflemariam shed light on the ongoing challenges the school faces. Despite their efforts to maintain communication with parents and secure essential supplies, the school faces daunting obstacles worsened by inflation and road blockages.

Sister Haregewein’s concerns about infrastructure and student safety underscored the urgent need for support. Through the stories of Bahir Dar and Gondar, the human impact of the conflict became painfully clear. Despite the hardships the conflict brought, all these individuals sought moments of joy and connection, embodying a defiance against being solely defined by their surroundings.

Read Hope for a Peaceful Future” in the March 2024 edition of ONE magazine.

Hikma A. Abdulmejid is a freelance journalist and lecturer in journalism and communications at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español