Most Muslims in the empire are Oromo. For this reason the raised issue concerns Oromoo more. Faith is ones own. No body that tried to impose faith on another by force had ever been fully successful. If not the corpse it is impossible to control the spirit of some one. For instance there was long ago a king of Abyssinia called Yohannis 4th. He threatened Northern Oromo people that he will cut the tongue with which they make azan (summon to prayer) unless they change their faith to his type of Christianity. Some obeyed, some lost their tongues and others flee the country. Yohannis got his head cut off for that sin. But the faith is still flourishing in the same area.
It is a birth right for peoples to conduct their faith in the way they see fit. No one has the right or the ability to say one faith is better than the other. There are no world religions that are not divided into independent groups. For example Christianity is split into Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran etc. Islam also is split into Shiite, Sunni etc. All have many independent sects. All make effort to increase their membership by all means. To reveal truth of their faith to people and attract believers is their business. It should not be the concern of the state. The role of the state is to safeguard human rights. It is not to pitch one societal group against the others for its own advantage. In a multi-religious society unless the role of state and faith are separated there is a possibility of bringing unexpected catastrophe. That is why secularism becomes indispensable.
The Ethiopian empire had for long embraced one religion and suppressed others. The state and the religion belonged to one nation. That became reason for several movements. Among them was the great demonstration of April 1974 that extended from Anwar Mosque in Markaatoo to the Parliament staged by Muslims in Finfinnee. Though many demands were made the major one was the demand for equality and to have role in the country’s affairs. The force that came out in solidarity from other groups was no less than that of the Muslims. With that it was realized that the support for justice and equality supersedes all other differences claimed. To cool down the rage that was manifested Islamic holidays were declared public holidays. The Imam of the Mosque was also made to sit on state occasions on equal level with the Patriarch. The remaining grievances later started to explode in different ways causing revolutionary whirlwind.
Though some advantages are given underhand for the traditional religion, there is no more officially state religion. But attack on Oromo religions had continued. Their agents were dispatched camouflaged as faith cadres to dissuade the youth not to fight injustice. The earlier issued license for Waaqeffannaa was revoked. Next they tried to create conflict between Christians and Muslims in Jimmaa and Gumaa areas. Now they are threatening Muslims with terrorism, unless they embrace a sect they assigned them. Just like Yohannis 4th.
Each citizen has human rights to be respected for him/her. It is also his/her duty to uphold constitution and laws proclaimed by their legitimate representatives. Whoever is in any religious group he/she is individually responsible for breaking the law not collectively as a group. Therefore to search for openings or to collect hearsay and interfere in others’ faith has other motives than the alleged incriminating religious issue.
Oromiyaa is a country of believers. It is the right of Oromoo society to prophesy any religion in group or individually. If it wills it should not be forbidden to choose from any Christian, Islam, Waaqeffannaa etc. sects or to believe in nothing. To try such a measure would only be taken as aiming to mess up peace of the region. So far the Oromo people had never been accused of extremism in any form. That is their permanent character. They are peace loving people that do not invite problems, but only asks the recognition of its birth rights as a people. It prefers dialog rather than violence.
Now the government that has controlled the Habashaa power is instigating Oromo individuals and groups to be violent. However it will not be successful. People that claim Gadaa culture cannot idly sit and clap their hands when a kin is brutalized for ones conscience. It is only the society that can discipline or pass judgment for competition within its religious groups. If a group tries to do injustice to another group or to undermine the honor, identity and unity of the nation it knows that it cannot escape the wrath to come. It is up to individuals in religious or other groups to be careful not to transgress the law. Oromo movements should not be judged by international ones. On this they do not need the present government in power to lecture them.
Several campaigns were conducted against Oromiyaa since the present government came to power. Its merchants are denied equal benefit of competing for market benefits. They have brought person from outside and settled on its land. They have evicted farmers in mass and sold expansive tract of their fertile lands to transnational investors. They are polluting its rivers and soil with poisonous chemicals. With that people, domestic animals and the natural environment are being destroyed. Education, health services and different benefits that could have been gained are all being crippled. The present campaign against a faith cannot be viewed separately. It is its continuation, a war taken to higher level.
The Oromo should not wait and see until this campaign on one of its religions advance to others. It has seen when yesterday they designated the vanguard of its struggle OLF as terrorist and took the pretext to harass persons peacefully living in their homes. Though OLF is a secular organization its members are from all regions and religions of Oromiya. They have one common kaayyoo, heroes and country. Its objective is to re establish an independent Oromiyaa and a free people. The Oromoo enemy knows this and has devised several schemes to sabotage the liberation struggle. This will not be its final trial, it will look what it thinks are weak links and put pressure to break it.
For this reason all must wake up and stand guard for rights of its entire people. Some say that followers of Islam will not be less than half of the Oromo population. To aim at such a huge number should not be seen as different from aiming at the whole population. For this reason it is essential to be vigilant and defend against the agents they have infused into the society. The blood of our nationals that spilled recently will not weaken our struggle but rather it will strengthen it more. It is imperative to get prepared and defend against imprisonment and killings that could be carried out in all corners of Oromiyaa, be it for reasons told presently or by creating new ones. All the martyrs are Oromo heroes; with their blood Bilisummaa shall flourish not fade.
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.