My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Ethiopia - a pilgrimage - we prepare to leave Addis Ababa

modern Addis Ababa
It is beginning to rain as we come out of the Trinity (Selassie) Cathedral in Addis Ababa to head back to our hotel - but it is short lived and the sun is soon out again. Beggars surround us watching for any of us to become separated from the group, when they close in to appeal to our Christian natures. It is so difficult to know what to do and we ask our guide for advice. We cannot after all give money to everyone who appears needy, much as we may like to. There are about 32 Ethiopian Birr to the British pound at the moment. Apparently a 1 or 5 Birr note is an acceptable response to genuine requests - the problem is knowing who is genuine! I get into the habit of always having my small notes handy when we come out of churches and monasteries or when reward for a photo shot is in order.
outside Holy Trinity Cathedral
And that's another thing. It is so tempting sometimes to take photos because everything to us about this amazing country is new and colourful and fascinating. But these people deserve our respect, and permission should always be sought for photos of them in close up. 
building work Addis Ababa
Back at the hotel we meet for a service of evening prayer - we are allocated the poolside bar - quite surreal as we are surrounded by unsuspecting couples there for just a quiet drink - so prayers are abandoned and we just have a chat about the day's experiences. The Revd. Canon Adrian Slade, our leader,  talks about the filters we all use in understanding our faith. In Europe, influenced by the Roman Catholic church, our faith is based on the word, the worship book and liturgy being very important to us. In the Eastern European Orthodox church, there is a very different mindset, where sound and sight are crucial - the visual and the aural. In Ethiopia the form of worship of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is quite primitive compared with what we are used to, founded very early in the history of Christianity, c. 340AD by Emperor Ezana of Aksum following his conversion by Syrian monks, and before the influence of Rome and Europe. I will revisit this, and we will experience some of this at first hand in the days to come - especially on Sunday when our own perceptions of worship will be seriously challenged…
contrasting living conditions Addis Ababa

We head off for supper and an early night - we will be having a wake up call at 4.30, breakfast at 5am, leaving the hotel at 5.20am for our domestic flight to the North of the country, to Mekele and Axum…Exciting days ahead. 

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