(from Addis Ababa) – “While other countries close their borders, we who are a poor country welcome more than 900,000 refugees fleeing wars and dictatorships and give them free education from primary school to university”. Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said this in the presence of SIR news agency and other Catholic media as he received us at the Archbishop’s House, next to St. Mary Covenant Cathedral, a short walk from a mosque.
Catholics in Ethiopia are only 0.7% of 102 million inhabitants. 46% of Ethiopians are Orthodox, 33% Muslims. Catholicism has ancient roots here and strongly permeates Ethiopian art and culture, having been introduced into the country in the fourth century AD. “Our country is home to people of different religions who live in peace – he said – and to Somali, Eritreans, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Congolese, and Yemeni refugees”. The Archbishop of Addis Ababa welcomes the humanitarian corridors initiative established under the Italian Church-State Protocol that brings 113 refugees to Italy today, a figure that will rise to 500 by the end of 2018. But, he points out, “500 is a small number compared to 900,000 refugees: all European countries should follow the example of Italy”. In his view, given the widespread poverty and youth unemployment in Ethiopia and throughout Africa, “we must look for solutions here, through education, training, and the promotion of small enterprises”. The Catholic Church, which is a minority in Ethiopia, he concludes, has “to build bridges, not walls as Trump would like to do. And it is our responsibility to change the minds of young people who want to solve the problems by leaving the country”.