God wants Ethiopians to prosper
By The Economist
December 3, 2018

The prime minister and many of his closest allies follow a fast-growing strain of Christianity

“The reason why we are poor is inside us,” cries Nigusie Roba, his face sweating with emotion. “It is not the fault of God.” The pastor’s youthful congregants rise, palms open wide. Nigusie’s voice grows louder: “Tonight you will go home anointed by God.” In the far corner a young woman drops to the floor, her body writhing as she screams.

Preachers like Nigusie—sharply dressed, charismatic, and renowned for exorcising demons from the bodies of the faithful—represent a strain of Christianity not widely associated with traditionally Orthodox Ethiopia. For centuries national identity was entwined with the conservative ritual and hierarchy of the continent’s oldest church. But “Pentes”, as both Pentecostals and more staid Protestants are known in Ethiopia, are on the march.

Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, is a devout Pentecostal. So was his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn. Lemma Megersa, the prime minister’s closest ally and president of Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region, is a board member of Assemblies of God, the church which hosted Nigusie in Addis Ababa in October. The rise of the Oromo wing of the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (eprdf), has brought even more Pentes into the highest ranks of government. Most of the executive committee of Abiy’s Oromo faction have been followers of Pastor Gemechis Desta, a Pentecostal preacher, even though Pentes are probably still outnumbered in Oromia by both Muslims and Orthodox Christians.

In the 1960s Pentes were less than 1% of the national population. Today they may be as much as a quarter, packed into cities and among the fast-growing rural populations in the south and west. Most of this growth has come at the expense of the Orthodox Church

Full story on The Economist

 


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