- Ethiopian pastor Gudina Tumsa, who was murdered by the country's military dictatorship in 1979, has been hailed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The LWF President described pastor Tumsa as a fighter and dynamic church leader who gave his church the decisive impetus for independence in theological thought and practice.
Bishop emeritus Dr Christian Krause, on a recent visit to Ethiopia, said the former General Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), who was murdered in 1979, resisted both the foreigners' patronizing attitude and attempts to split his church into the different mission areas of individual groups from abroad.
Mr Tumsa "did not allow himself to be intimidated by the financial dependency caused by the country's impoverishment," said the LWF president. "His concern was to create a new missionary community of Lutheran churches in which the EECMY, with its particular gifts and possibilities, would be an equal partner," Mr Krause said in his tribute.
The Ethiopian theologian was committed to fighting the division of people into body and soul, and the separation of mission and church development service. Under his leadership, the EECMY joined the LWF, All Africa Conference of Churches and World Council of Churches. The EECMY has now over 3.3 million members, and has been a member of the LWF since 1963.
Mr Krause made his remarks during the recent "Second Missiological Seminar on the Life and Ministry of Rev. Gudina Tumsa," jointly organised by the Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF) and EECMY. Some 250 participants including guest speakers from Germany, Norway and the US attended the meeting, whose theme was "Church and Society."
In his presentation, the LWF president described pastor Tumsa as "a martyr for his church in the fullest sense of the word," as well as a contemporary witness to the gospel. He gave direction to the next generation and is a "great role model for our times."
The LWF president described his final encounter with his Ethiopian friend and colleague, during which Mr Tumsa declined an offer of a safe haven outside the country, and instead chose to remain with his people.
Mr Krause said he was pleased that earlier tensions between the EECMY and GTF, which he together with friends and the Tumsa family had founded in the early 1990's, had now been alleviated. The collaboration in organising the seminar was a visible outcome of the improved relationship.
Other seminar participants honoured Mr Tumsa as a church leader recognised throughout the worldwide community of churches. They supported a proposal put forward by the Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary board to set up a professorship with the aim of studying and promoting the significance of the theologian's life and ministry.
They also urged individuals who encountered Mr Tumsa during his lifetime to provide pertinent documents that the foundation may not be having yet, as well as written or oral witnesses, for a planned publication of his work.
Gudina Tumsa, born in 1929 in the province of Wollega, left home to attend school in Nedjo. In the mission school there, he stood out for his great talent, according to Mr Krause, and often served as an interpreter for the missionaries. First he worked as a nurse and teacher in Nakamte, where he met his future wife, Tsehay Tolessa. Mr Tumsa received his basic theological training at the Nedjo Seminary.
The EECMY, established in 1959 through the work of Lutheran missionaries from abroad, sent him in 1961 for further theological training to the US, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree.
The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution that led to the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie was accompanied by great hopes, but brought neither peace nor economic recovery. The country's development was marked by internal strife and regional rebellions under the dictatorial socialist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. But Mr Tumsa never ceased to proclaim the gospel, which resulted in arrests and hearings.
In 1978, Mr Tumsa was arrested for the first time and set free a few weeks later. After his second arrest in 1979, the regime attempted to brand him a counter-revolutionary and political agent. After worldwide protests, he was again released in June 1979. A few weeks later, after attending church services, he was attacked by armed men in Addis Ababa and kidnapped.
According to Mr Krause: "Now we know that immediately thereafter, he was murdered by government forces." This fact had "emerged clearly" from the files to which access is now granted.
Mr Krause also reports that pastor Tumsa was actively involved in civil society concerns. "He opposed all forms of racism, the exploitation of farmers and domestic servants among his own people, and spoke out in favour of fundamental land reform. For many among the poor, oppressed and disenfranchised in Ethiopia, Tumsa and the EECMY became a symbol of hope."
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.