Saving Ethiopia’s “Church Forests”

forestAt PLoS Blogs, T. DeLene Beeland writes:

In America, some fundamental Christians believe that man has a God-given right to use the earth and all its resources to meet their needs. After all, Genesis says so. But across the Atlantic, a different attitude prevails among followers in Ethiopia, which has the longest continuous tradition of Christianity of any African country. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches believe they should maintain a home for all of God’s creatures around their places of worship. The result? Forests ringing churches.

There are some 35,000 church forests in Ethiopia, ranging in size from a few acres to 300 hectares. Some churches and their forests may date back to the fourth century, and all are remnants of Ethiopia’s historic Afromontane forests. To their followers, they are a sacred symbol of the garden of Eden — to be loved and cared for, but not worshipped.

Most church forests are concentrated in the northern reaches of the country, especially in the Lake Tana area. Here, most of the Afromontane forests have been cut down to make clearings for agriculture, pastures for livestock and settlements. It is said that if a traveler to the area spies a forest, it surely has a church in the middle. Many also have freshwater springs.

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Author: Silouan

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