A moment to reflect
Adi Sibhat is in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. It’s a deeply religious place. The Christian Orthodox faith plays a huge role in the culture and daily life of the community.
The church plays a pivotal role in Ethiopian society
Yared is actually employed by the Church’s own NGO, rather than a government agency. The Church as an organisation plays a very practical part in ensuring that the finances, planning and skills are in place to deliver projects like The Big Pipe Project.
Their support isn’t just spiritual; the purchase, transfer and storage of materials have been organised in partnership with the church, as has the recruitment and payment of any skilled labour needed to complete the project.
Working for the people
For such a traditional and deeply spiritual organisation, this practical, hands-on role the church plays in society really struck me. Local church leaders can often be found in the community helping to organise the various committees and generally getting involved with whatever needs to be done to complete the work.
When I visited Adi Sibhat back in November there was a special service taking place which we were invited to join and film. It was an incredibly atmospheric, powerful experience. On this particular occasion the service had been taking place since before first light. The priest had been reading a long text in an ancient language particular to this area.
The church compound consisted of two main church buildings, a walled courtyard and a raised viewing area. Inside one of the buildings was the high alter. This ceremony was taking place just outside, in the chilly dawn air.
The congregation was a mix of people from Adi Sibhat and surrounding villages. Both young and old had attended the ceremony and we met some incredibly frail older people who had made the walk to attend. The church had the most amazing atmosphere, managing to be both solemn and relaxed at the same time.
When entering the compound a blessing ritual was performed and people would spend some time around the edges of the compound murmuring prayers and bowing to the alter. Once this ritual was complete people would often spot friends and find a place to sit, quietly talking and observing the ceremony. Others had taken their place closer to where the priest was and were bowing in prayer.
We tried to keep to the sidelines but were made to feel so welcome, with some of the older Adi Sibhat folk introducing us to people from other villages.
Meeting the local Priest
Once the service had finished and despite having been awake for many hours, the priest invited us to join him at the alter to chat about the Big Pipe Project. I was struck by what a serene and calm man Fater Arggaw is. He knew his congregation well and seemed to care very deeply about the issues they faced. He was also fully aware of the details of the project and clearly knew Yared very well.
The UK is starting to wind down in anticipation of a well-earned Christmas break. In Ethiopia, Christmas doesn’t take place until January and the community are pulling out all the stops to finish the project in time. I really hope they can do it.
One thing is for sure: everybody in the community will do whatever it takes to get the project finished!