Ethiopian Mennonite leader delves into politics
A former Mennonite World Conference president and leader of the Meserete Kristos Church has been elected to the city council of Ethiopia's capital. Million Belete will take office in September 2005 in the Regional Parliament, which serves Addis Ababa.
Belete's political entry is a radical departure from the thinking and practice of Mennonites and most evangelical Christians in Ethiopia, according to Carl E. Hanson, resource development director for Miserete Kristos College in Addis Ababa.
'In the last several decades there has been a strong consensus of opinion among evangelicals that ëtrue Christians' will not get involved in politics,' Hanson explained to MWC. Involvement was seen to include political rallies, voting and being a candidate. However, that opposition has softened as Ethiopia's formerly Marxist dictatorship has become a more democratic government, he added.
Belete led a campaign by the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia to encourage Christians to participate as voters and candidates in the May 2005 national elections. When someone asked him why he didn't run for office himself, he says he decided to pray about it and he asked others to pray, too. Some people cautioned him against running; others encouraged him.
He was told he would not win if he ran as an independent, so he accepted the invitation of the six-month-old Coalition for Unity and Democracy party to run on its ticket. Belete won the seat. A student from Miserete Kristos College was also elected.
Belete believes he had no choice as a Christian but to enter politics to be an example, to be 'light and salt in the political world'.
Mennonites are Christians with a strong commitment to practical peacemaking and community building through following the way of Christ. They are designated one of the three ëhistoric peace churches' (along with Quakers and Brethren in Christ) and are heirs to the ëradical reformation' in Europe. There are an estimated 1.2 million Mennonites across the world.