WHY IS PENTECOSTALISM A RISING FAITH IN ETHIOPIA? Addis Ababa: a Case Study.
Summary of the paper intended to be presented at 18th ICES (Dire Dawa, November 2012).
The rise of Pentecostal and charismatic movements is a worldwide phenomenon that does not affect only Ethiopia but also the entire African continent and the rest of the world too. Nevertheless, as the social dynamic is not everywhere similar, it is worth seeking for a better understanding of the Pentecostal contemporary growth in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has a long Christian History with roots connecting into biblical substratum. The country has also developed an old suspicion against all foreign kind of faith at a stage that the national identity is shaped in the mould of the Tewahedo faith. This context was not supposed to ease the rise of Pentecostal churches in Ethiopia, especially in the highlands.
Researchers, including major contributors, have studied the historical background of Evangelicalism in Ethiopia, as a foreign importation or as an indigenous assimilation of social dynamics. Scholarships are taking into account the foundation of national churches during the 60’s and their growth, the prosecution during Därg time, eventually the very first post-revolutionary years. But as far as now there is no any research led on the current situation.
Are the new churches really conquering Ethiopia which would let think that a foreign missionary influence is acting behind? Or could the success of Pentecostalism be the result of a national internal dynamic that trends to redefine the social and cultural identity? The current state of our information does not allow us to answer this fundamental question.
It is impossible to state in the nowadays Ethiopia who are members of Pentecostal or charismatic church. Which social layers or nationalities are mostly receiving the Pentecostal message? In which age range people are mainly joining them? Do the worshippers definitely cut their link with their former religious community? Where are the churches located and who are the owners of their buildings, how are they financed? What are the enculturation supports? Considering Addis Ababa as the real seat of the political power in federal Ethiopia and also being a mosaic representing most of the Ethiopian communities a survey made in the capital city would enable to better understand the reasons of the current success of evangelicalism.
The main salient features characterizing the Pentecostalism are also those that might seduce Ethiopians as reflecting indigenous cultural practices: an open space for the expression of individual experiences, an oral theology and a direct contact between the worshipper and God with no hierarchy to interfere. The healing doctrine that brings a new therapeutic hope with the help of the Holy-Spirit is not the less.
For those Ethiopian nationalities that do not have a long common history with highland amhara culture Pentecostalism is a Christian alternative with no liabilities that allows a cultural emancipation.More than an external “invasion” we believe that the current success of Global Pentecostalism and charismatic movements is a result of an internal dynamic, especially in the highlands, produced by the pursuit of a new identity that does not reproach social success and gaining money.