Negarit 57: ጽዊጽዋይ ወለዶይ – My ancestral myth – أسطورة نسبي
This is a script that I used for Negarit 57, my series on youtube recorded on October 9, 2019)
Today I will tell you about my ancestry trail for the last 2300 years, and solidarity with the Catholics and Abuna Abraha Francoise, the man who should be canonized as a saint.
I just discovered my history written on a clay tablet—it’s strange they called it tablet before the modern tablet came into existence.
In a time that everyone is depending on folklore, nobody should ask me for evidence to prove what I am telling you, it’s in a tablet and difficult to carry. But even those who do not have clay tablets as a reference are making wild claims, why not me! So, just listen and believe me. We are living in a time of inventing mythology; mine is not less significant than other folktales, tswitsway. In fact, it’s authentic sourced from a 2300 years old tablet.
And here I will tell you how myths are made…
My ancestral history was written in an ancient language that one of my ancestors perfected—today there are less than a dozen people who can decipher it, one of them is my far relative, his great, great, great, ….grandfather left our religion to preach Christianity in Scandinavian who were pagans at the time—so their complexion veered. Now my Norwegian relative is a blond, blue-eyed man. And his name, Jóarr. It’s the corrupted version of Johar. He is one of the dozen people who read the ancient language and he translated the tablets for me. So, here, pay attention.
About 1200 years before Christ, my great, great, great, great grandfather was born on a ship sailing on the Red Sea and they ended up on the coast— He was the son of Negisti Saba (her father called her Belqis and mother Makeda) and he is royal. He was a great leader, even his mother was afraid he would overthrow her and take the throne.
Johar LVI, my 56th ancestor landed and soon built a temple for Baal, and another for Ishtar, the gods of that age. When Johar’s son became a man, he established a functional temple with a hierarchy of priests. He converted the pagans (he never admitted he was one) and soon most of the people started to convert—he gave them a choice. Many people chose Ishtar, she was a beautiful woman, but some also accepted Baal.
Baal, a master of all gods, (the word Bal in Amharic comes from it, and the Tigrinyan, Baal Tanika, etc, and the Tigrayet, BaAal Neway, etc.) And Ishtar (a strong goddess of fertility, war, love, peace and Justice—the Tigrayit word Aster for the skies, I believe, comes from it). The people believed Ishtar was an extra-terrestrial who came riding a meteorite, etc.)
The two religions flourished, and eventually Johar II was succeeded by his sons for a few two centuries, until some people who said they were sent by prophet Moses came with the Torah, and started to preach Judaism. They met the patriarch of the Johar family who was leading at the time and they had a serious theological discussion and they reached an agreement. They married him to one of their girls (I think they married him to three women) and he became Jewish. He converted the Baal and Ishtar temples to Jewish temples and he presided over the entire community of Jews—I am sure many of your ancestors were converted to Judaism by my ancestors.
One of my ancestors differed with his brothers and left the temple and started to trade sailing with goods and slaves to Arabia. During one of his journeys on the sea with products ordered by King Ezana, he found a damaged Syrian boat carrying goods to India. He rescued them and brought them to shore. He found out they were Christians and being from a priestly family, they started to discuss religion and he was convinced about Christianity, but he didn’t declare it openly (QalAlem). He took them to king Ezana and surprisingly, it didn’t take the Syrians too long to convert Ezana to Christianity. My ancestor had helped convince him; he thought if Johar the famous Jewish Rabbi is convinced, Ezana didn’t have a problem. There and then, they declared Christianity the official religion of the region and they destroyed all the other temples—my ancestor had to fight his brothers over that—I think he killed a few of them.
Time went by and my 56th ancestor became a famous Christian priest. He and his siblings had their center in a place that could be in Meroe, Qohaito or Axum—I am not sure—when my ancestors left, they ruined the places. Anyway, that was the time some Muslims came to Abyssinia and my ancestor at the time accepted Islam. He flourished and spread Islam in many parts of the region. He became the right hand man of king Ashama bin Abjar, the Negashi of the time, who is deleted from Abyssinian history just like Isaias deleted the name of Haile Derou’e from all records.
One time my ancestor at the time met some who came to his region, they said they were the companions of prophet Mohammed and he converted to Islam and spread the new religion to all parts of present Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and other places.
My ancestors lived that life until 400 years ago when they gave up missionary job and became traders—that is starting from my 16th ancestor—let’s call him Johar XVI.
Mythology ends here
In about 1930s, one of my great uncles had a son from a Christian woman and she was raising him. Then she decided to put him in a Catholic school in Keren, and he was sent to Italy for higher education. He returned as Fratello Yemane Johar. He was a known priest in Keren, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East and West Africa until he died some years ago. He was my great nephew. But he is a Catholic priest and he didn’t leave us a relative.
So. There you have it. My ancestors are responsible for converting many of your ancestors from paganism, to Ashtar and Baal, to Judaism, to Christianity, to Islam—I have a history of 2300 years under my belt, and I carry the blood of the Queen of Sheba.
But now our family has stopped the business of religions and converting everybody around, though I want to convert the few confused individuals to genuine Eritreanism—which I am sure you will help me with that–now you know my origins for those who might not know.
My Soft spot for Catholics
I have a soft spot for Catholics—for God’s sake, I grew up in Keren and enjoyed Mariaam Daarit festivals throughout much of my teenage years. I am not telling you about doctrines, it is not my business, but about characters and attitudes. Do you know liberation theology?
Talking about my experience with the Catholics leads me to Abba Abraha Francoise.
I am sure Father Abraha Francoise was very much influenced by the Liberation theology. In the early seventies, I attended two of his sermons with my friend the martyr Beshir Neberay, and liked sermon very much. He spoke against the brutality of the Janhoi soldiers, Ona, Besekdria and other atrocities that were happening around Keren at the time. In the mid-seventies, I heard he was involved in similar sermons against the atrocities that happened in Asmara.
Father Gustavo Gutiérrez, Roman Catholic priest is considered the father of liberation theology, and it’s a revolutionary movement of Catholic priests to side with the poor and the oppressed and not with authority.
“True followers of Jesus, according to liberation theology, must work toward a just society, bring about social and political change, and align themselves with the working class. Jesus, who was poor Himself, focused on the poor and downtrodden, and any legitimate church will give preference to those who have historically been marginalized or deprived of their rights. All church doctrine should grow out of the perspective of the poor. Defending the rights of the poor is seen as the central aspect of the gospel.”
In the Scripture, Luke 1:52–53, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones / but has lifted up the humble. / He has filled the hungry with good things / but has sent the rich away empty.” Is one of their views—and there is a similar saying in Muslim traditions, “All put my bounties under the shadow of my spear”.
I believe, the sword and the spear are used symbolically, as in the symbol of a blindfolded woman with a sword stands for justice. I understand that to represent (like many philosophers believe) the power of authority to spread and protect justice. Sadly, religious fanatics and bloodthirsty individuals think they symbols gives them license to spill innocent blood.
I think, just like Mother Tereza was canonized posthumously, Abba Abraha should be canonized—he belongs in the same league with St. Augustine of Hippo, (By the way, I think Hebo of Akele Guzai in Eritrea is named after Hippo, the city located in North Algeria, where St. Augustine is from.)
I am wondering if it’s allowed to petition the Vatican! If it is, then we should start a petition drive to plead to the Vatican to canonize Abba Abraha Francoise.
I can’t say much about the similarities of the Mother Teresa and Abba Abraha, but the two strike me as two were created from the same material.
Of course, this is my way of registering my solidarity with the catholic priests who have led the way to justice and respect of Eritreans. The statements they have always been issuing are contemplative and courageous. And at this time, their charitable work is targeted by the anti-education and anti-enlightenment PFDJ.
It’s a fact that the Catholic education and the school system is among the best all over the world. Besides, their charity work is not concerned about sects and denomination, they uplift the needy regardless of their religious affiliation, on humanitarian basis. The other denominations are narrowly focused, and they benefit only their members. Not the Catholics. And I do not have to prove any of that to Eritreans: Santa Familia, the other schools everywhere, the Lalemba Orphanage (founded by Deacon Hugh Downey, a catholic who was stationed in the Kagnew station, in Asmara and has dedicated his life to charity works), and the Camboni school system that many Eritreans went through, is strong testimony.
If you want to start learning about liberation theology, follow the link below. Start from that basic one and be curious, find out more…..
Read about liberation-theology here.