Beyond what can be seen – Waltenegus Dargie
If it be, Why seems it so particular with thee?
Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’
‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
Any one how lived in Europe for a while understands how much damage has been committed in the past in the Name of God. It is now very difficult to freely express one’s love for and belief in God. Not because the people are secular or intolerant of religion. In fact, in Germany, where I am living, the majority believe in God – despite everything. Yet most feel uncomfortable with the Church because of the burden of the past.
In the past, pastors and bishops came in the Name of the Lord to preach for decades oppression; submission to tyranny; and obedience to hate. Weeks after weeks the Church provided platforms to wolves in sheep skins who shackled the courage; attacked the commonsense; and robbed the charity of the innumerable masses during the Nazi regime.
This is not to imply that there were no people like Dietrich Bonheoffer who resisted and confronted Evil and laid down their life like John the Baptist. But the world remembers them less often. The wound inflicted by the formers is too painful; does not heal easily… still bleeds, settling down deep within one’s conscience an undying and bottomless guilt …
While this is sad, there is a lesson for the contemporary Church to learn. How should spiritual people deal with conflict; how should they mediate and establish peace between enemies? Jesus clearly encourages the children of God to establish peace. He calls them blessed. And it is unforgivable if the Church sits idle while many suffer; disappointment reigns; and peace between brothers becomes unattainable.
Regardless of the method chosen, however, those who go about in the name of God should pay the utmost care not to hurt the oppressed; the neglected; the lonely; and the disadvantaged. Because, if two unequal forces meet in the arena of struggle for power, it is very likely that the canny hearted and the calculative fighter can take advantage of any opportunity, including the pure intention of those who try to establish peace.
Coming to the specific purpose of this long and tedious introduction, I was troubled by a pastor who went to visit Birtukan Mideksa on Easter Day in Kaliti prison. Needless to say, this pastor went with all good intentions. But I was troubled by the whole show of public display. I wish he was going in his own name, for the message he was sending to the entire world was a very wrong one! What he was saying was that all was well with Birtukan; that she was enjoying a cosy and comfortable setting in which a traditional Coffee ceremony was taking place; that she was healthy, and all that was talked about her was a mere lie!! The message was intended to those who walk by sight; by what they see. So everything was purposefully organised for their consumption.
But this perfect organisation of sights reveals nothing. Does it tell us about her internal state, her heart-brokenness, her loneliness, her longing, fear, confusion, rage, disappointment? Even physically speaking, does the appearance and movement of her body as shown on TV tell us that all is well with her; that she is fine, healthy; that she has not been mistreated or unfairly handled?
Falsehood and superficiality defeats God’s purpose and inflicts pain on those who love God and provokes contempt in those who don’t.
While I respect his service and good intentions, what the pastor displayed on that Easter day he has not learned it from His master. For God is the God of Elijah who prevailed over Ahab; Jeremiah who resisted Zedekiah’s wilful and cowardice decisions; and John the Baptist who, not fearing the sword that was stretched before him, told the ruthless kind that he was in the wrong.