Archdeacon Tesfa Mikael Williams – (News Editor – Ethiopian Affairs)OCP News Service – 05/11/18
Special Courtesy – Solomon Kibriye (Chief Editor – Ethiopian Affairs)
As a result of the decisions made during the bi-annual plenary meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, on Monday the 29th of October, to respond to the situation at Deir El-Sultan Monastery, the following official response was produced on the final day of the meeting, Wednesday the 31st of October.
Statement by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s Holy Synod concerning Deir El-Sultan
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
A Statement from the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Regarding the Renovation of the Church of Saint Michael in the Ethiopian Monastery of Deir El-Sultan and the Illegal Opposition Displayed by Members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. As you all know, amongst the holy places that belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Jerusalem the most important are the ancient and historical [churches] of the Saviour of the World, the Four [Living] Creatures and Saint Michael located in the Monastery of Deir El-Sultan.
As history teaches us, the inheritance that Ethiopians have in the land of Israel is over three thousand years old. With no mistake, today’s Ethiopian, whose geographic confluence is connected to the source of the River Nile, is recorded more than 40 times in the Old Testament. Having historical, religious and social ties it is a country that has a strong relationship with Israel.
From the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem, Ethiopians have been ceaselessly going to the Holy Land to celebrate the Passover and observing the worship of God [there] annually. It is a truth confirmed in both the Holy Scriptures and historical [books] that they went to honour the places that were given to them as an inheritance and [for the purpose of] trading. An example of this in the New Testament is written in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 8 verses 26 to 40: the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, because of whom Christianity entered Ethiopia.
During the journeys that Ethiopians have made to Jerusalem, besides strengthening spiritual and social ties, having founded Deir El-Sultan and many [other holy] sites as permanent patrimonies, they established many monasteries and churches and set up a Bishop’s Palace. These actions made Ethiopia a symbol and boast of her people in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, the Copts have unbecomingly used rights that do not pertain to them and illegal, counterfeit documentation in order to undermine [these] long-standing historical facts. Although they have exerted much effort to deprive Ethiopia of her proprietorship of the Monastery of Deir El-Sultan, hitherto Ethiopians have preserved their faith and their ancient Monastery to the point of sacrificing their lives.
In addition to scriptural evidence, the Ethiopian holdings in Jerusalem are facts recorded in the tax annals and proclamation records of those who ruled Jerusalem, the historical journals of scholars who visited Jerusalem, the private diaries of pilgrims and international archives. For example, it has been witnessed by those such as the Latin historian Jerome, the rulers Caliph Omar and Saladin and in the monastic records of those who have similar holdings in Jerusalem: the Armenian and Syrian Oriental Orthodox churches, the Greek and Russian Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
However, because of the unjust and inhumane acts carried out by the Copts, we have been able neither to protect the monastery in our possession from damage nor to renovate it, and it is now in a dilapidated state.
Therefore, in the name of the holy Church and all Ethiopians we would like to express the great joy that we feel and offer heartfelt appreciation that the Government of Israel has both promised to renovate the Monastery and in keeping with this promise recently begun the renovation work of the damaged Church of Saint Michael, through the repeated petitions that the Church conveyed and the request made on the basis of the constitutional right of the Ethiopian Government. We believe that the renovation work that has begun in Deir El-Sultan will reach all the badly damaged Ethiopian holdings and that this Monastery will preserve its ancient contents to be passed on to the [coming] generations.
We call upon the Government of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians throughout the world to express your appreciation to the Government of Israel for the renovation work which is currently being carried out; and do your part to oppose the baseless accusations and riotousness of the Coptic Church and preserve your Monastery; and in time to come begin a collective movement to return the holdings which have not been relinquished by the Copts.
In these circumstances [we ask] the members of the Coptic Orthodox Church to cease from the unbecoming obstruction of work in our holdings, concocting baseless stories about proprietorship in any form of media and the current, needless riotousness and brazen trouble making.
Deir El-Sultan is an Ethiopia Monastery! It was and always will be our historical and religious heritage. It is a permanent witness of the presence of Ethiopians in the holy city of Jerusalem, [therefore,] we call for the cessation of this erroneous provocation and riotousness.
In conclusion, we call upon the Government of Ethiopia and all charities that raise awareness of heritage preservation that the renovation work might be invigorated and continue suitably throughout all the holdings of Deir El-Sultan. Let it be known that it is our desire that the renovation will be completed unobstructed and undisturbed.
God bless Ethiopia and her people. Glory to God. Amen.
His Holiness Abunä Mathias I, Patriarch of Ethiopia,
Archbishop of Axum and Ǝč̣äge on See of Täklä Haymanot,
The 21st of Ṭәqәmt, 2011 (EC)
Moreover, the following points were also included amongst the full list of resolutions produced on the final day of the plenary meeting.
“It is well known that there has been no time that the Holy Synod has refrained from personally making written and spoken appeals concerning the visible problems which are increasing from one period to another in the holdings in our Monastery, Deir El-Sultan, in the holy city of Jerusalem. [At present] the Coptic Orthodox Church is unbecomingly spreading concocted stories about an inheritance and rights which do not belong to her in order to undermine the historical facts and deprive us of the proprietorship of our Monastery of Deir El-Sultan. The main issue that the Copts engaged in this activity ought to consider is ‘Who gives who orders in whose inheritance?’ For centuries, Ethiopians have preserved their faith and their ancient history, to the point of sacrificing their lives, and have passed it on to us. We too shall take care of our responsibility to preserve and pass it on to the [coming] generations.
The Coptic Orthodox Church must cease from unbecomingly impeding the [renovation] work in our property, raising issues of proprietorship by means of history or any other form of documentation and causing a disturbance and brazen trouble making. Deir El-Sultan is an Ethiopia Monastery yesterday and today and forever!
However, rather than finding a solution to the problem the pressure has grown and is becoming increasingly difficult. [Therefore,] we ask the Government of Ethiopia, as [a body] that is [also] concerned with this issue, to help find the necessary solution in connection with the compellingness of the problems that are becoming an unexpected, grave concern due to Coptic Church’s [actions] against the Monks who currently watch and protect the Monastery.”
OCP News Service