The conclusion of the year 2015, as per the Ethiopian calendar, has arrived. Puagme, the final month of the year, invites us to engage in introspection and contemplation about the year that has passed. It is a time when we reflect upon both the triumphs and tribulations we experienced and make sincere commitments to ourselves and others to learn from our past, rectify our mistakes, and evolve into improved versions of ourselves.
With the arrival of the New Year, there is a palpable sense of anticipation for fresh opportunities, and this sentiment is particularly elevated during the month of Puagme.
In observance of Puagme, the government has chosen to celebrate and uphold various cherished values during the last days leading up to the New Year. Unity and serving the people are among the values that are being accorded special recognition during this period. However, it instils in me a fervent desire to witness the continuous reverence of these values throughout the entire year, permeating every aspect of our lives.
Nevertheless, these values serve as a poignant reminder of the areas in which we, as a nation, must diligently strive for improvement as we embark on the new year.
The leaders of the major religions in our country are also urging a period of prayer and fasting during this period. These spiritual practices are intended to seek a year ahead, 2016, that is free from suffering, violence, division, war, and deprivation. Instead, the aim is for our nation to experience a year filled with the blessings and positive attributes necessary for Ethiopia to flourish as a prosperous, unified, and peaceful land. Considering the hardships endured by citizens in preceding years, it is clear that prayers and fasting are integral in seeking solace and relief from the pains we have endured.
However, it often leaves me contemplating why Ethiopia, a country known for its deep religious devotion, has not witnessed the desired blessings that one would expect from such unwavering faith. While I don’t possess exact statistics, it is safe to say that the number of atheists in our country is relatively smaller. Even individuals who do not align themselves with a specific religious affiliation still maintain a belief in a higher power, a creator who holds sway over the fate of our world.
In essence, Ethiopia remains a nation profoundly committed to God, regardless of the diverse religious practices that exist within our borders. So, what has hindered our nation’s progress? Why do our prayers for a prosperous, united, and peaceful Ethiopia sometimes seem unanswered? What factors may be impeding the realization of our heartfelt desires?
The answer, in my perspective, lies deep within our hearts. It prompts us to question the sincerity behind our prayers. Do our supplications arise from hearts free of animosity, grudges, and the desire for retribution? As we gather in churches and mosques, collectively aspiring for unity and peace, we must reflect on the harmony and tranquility that exists within our own lives.
We pray for love, yet do we truly exhibit love towards those we are entrusted to serve? It is paradoxical that some among us, who seize opportunities to exploit and mistreat others, causing suffering and sowing division, also beseech our Creator for the very qualities we lack. Isn’t it ironic?
Regardless of our religious affiliations, the core values preached are similar. Love your enemies, do not steal, abstain from violence, covet not, and remain faithful in relationships. I sometimes ponder whether our own acts of defiance act as a barrier, preventing our prayers from reaching the attentive ears of our God. Prayers uttered with hearts tainted by hatred towards our families, friends, neighbors, or fellow countrymen hold little significance. They risk becoming empty words void of genuine intent.
Therefore, as we fervently pray for a brighter year ahead, let us embark on a personal journey of self-reflection and purification. Let us strive to cleanse our hearts from ill-will and negativity, allowing our actions to align with the virtues we profess. In doing so, we may find that our prayers resonate more profoundly and have a greater chance of being answered.