Ethiopia mosque ban: ‘Our sacred city of Aksum must be protected’

Ethiopia mosque ban: ‘Our sacred city of Aksum must be protected’

(bbcworld-africa-)For Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians, the ancient city of Aksum is a sacred place, home to the Biblical Queen of Sheba and Ark of the Covenant.

The ark is believed to contain the 10 commandments handed down to Moses by God, and is said to be under the guard of monks in the city.

Some Muslim groups are campaigning to build a mosque in the city – a suggestion rejected by Christian leaders, saying they would rather die.

“Aksum is our Mecca,” declares senior cleric Godefa Merha, who believes that just as churches are banned in Islam’s holiest site, mosques cannot exist in Aksum.

“Aksum is a holy place. This city is a monastery,” says Mr Godefa, the deputy head of Askum’s Our Lady Mary of Zion Church.

I

f anyone comes to build a mosque, we will die. It has never been allowed, and we will not allow it to happen in our age”
Godefa

If anyone comes to build a mosque, we will die. It has never been allowed, and we will not allow it to happen in our age”
Godefa Merha
Cleric from Our Lady Mary of Zion

Cleric from Our Lady Mary of Zion

This long-held position of Orthodox Christians is now at the centre of controversy as some Muslims are rallying under the banner “Justice for Aksum Muslims” to demand the right to build a mosque in the city, and to give their call to prayer – “Allah is the greatest” – on loudspeakers.

Many people see the controversy as unfortunate because the Kingdom of Aksum, one of the world’s greatest ancient civilisations, was once famed for its religious tolerance.

According to followers of both religions, Muslims first arrived in the kingdom soon after the advent of Islam in around 600AD as migrants fleeing persecution at the hands of Mecca’s then non-Muslim rulers.

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