When I boarded the flight from Washington to Addis Abba, I was a bit apprehensive because I would not return home until November. That is a long stretch of time! However this would be a return over 40 years later to a country that captured my imagination. Would my experience the second time around be as exciting as the first? Will I be disappointed? After settling down and waiting for takeoff I picked up the Ethiopian Airlines flight magazine and across the front under their logo was emblazoned: “Ethiopia, the New Spirit of Africa.”
Almost three weeks later as I prepared to leave, that new spirit seized me; however it is a new spirit that is rooted in the spirit of a people who have inherited a rich history.
The spirit of respect for others who are different is a hallmark of that exceptional Ethiopian spirit of hospitality. In a country where the Gospel has informed the culture since the first days when Philip preached the Gospel to the Ethiopian in a carriage (Acts 8:26ff), the Gospel has forged a people imbued with a spirit that reaches out to others in respect. The Christian majority reaches out the Muslim minority to be their neighbors. Christians do not simply tolerate the Muslim minority but invite them into their lives by sharing coffee and their feasts. They invite them to be neighbors. In the Middle East today religious minorities are not accepted, rather are persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Ethiopia embodies that spirit of mutual respect that leads to human flourishing and a more humane culture. Thus theirs is a new spirit born of the spirit of the Gospel preached from the earliest days of Christianity, that is the new spirit of Africa.