People in the U.S. don’t seem to understand how many of the issues in the Middle East and Africa are tribal and/or religious issues for the most part. In March 2011, Dave met with then U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Booth. Ambassador Booth understands after several postings around Africa.
“He, too, understands how much influence local religious leaders have and how they have a pulse on the community,” Dave said. Usually in many parts of the world, the religious leader is the most educated person in the community so, by definition, is a leader of the community. In the absence of civil leaders, the people turn to the religious leaders for direction.
Ambassador Booth said for his last three postings he has tried to get the embassies to do more religious engagement. He told Dave how the Muslims and Orthodox religions have gotten along well together in Ethiopia because when the Muslims were persecuted, Ethiopia gave them refuge.
“He said it was interesting that the ‘upstart’ Evangelical churches like the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterians that have caused some of the unrest in the balance in Ethiopia,” Dave said. It was interesting because generally those three denominations are not considered evangelical in the U.S., Dave added.
An unknown number of Christian churches and homes housing churches were burned in the days right before Dave’s visit when a Christian was accused of desecrating the Quran. Read more about the burnings at http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/03/24/thousands-christians-displaced-ethiopia-muslim-extremists-torch-churches-homes-2057387870/. These demonstrations show a growing division between the different religions.
Dave found Ambassador Booth to be an experienced diplomat. “He was pleasant, polite, knowledgeable, and engaging. He was easy to talk with and was interested in any way we could help improve relations with the people of Ethiopia,” he said.
To learn more about Ambassador Booth go to http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/143801.htm
Next up: Dave meets with our daughters’ Compassion International girl.