Ethiopian Orthodox Christians on Saturday celebrated in low- key fashion the eve of Meskel bonfire locally called ‘Demera’ that marks the finding of the true cross, on which Christ was crucified.
Unlike other times, however, the Meskel bonfire celebrations in the capital Addis Ababa were attended by not more than five thousand people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Previous reports show that at least half a million people attended the Meskel bonfire celebrations in Addis Ababa through the decades.
Meskel is celebrated annually on September 27 or September 28 in a leap year commemorating the fourth-century discovery by Roman Empress Saint Helena (Queen Eleni) of the True Cross.
The eve of Meskel, September 26, is marked by the burning of a large bonfire, locally called 'Demera' in the Amharic language, at churches, villages as well as on household levels.
Apart from the coronavirus disease, political pressure in different parts of the country against the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church made the celebration difficult in some places outside of Addis Ababa.
In Adama (Nazret) for example, which is only 100 kilometers to the southeast of Addis Ababa, the city administration did not allow the Ethiopian church to use the traditional place which the church used for ages to celebrate festivals like Meskel.
The mayor of the city reportedly passed the decision for the Ethiopian church not to use the place.
In Hosaena, southern Ethiopia regional states, the church is experiencing similar challenges.
The last Ethiopian year (2012) was full of challenges for the Ethiopian church.
It has lost hundreds of its followers in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, among other places, as radical ethnic Oromo nationalists orchestrated attacks in multiple cities in the region.
During the celebration at Meskel square in the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday, Patriarch Abune Mathias said “In order to overcome the various hurdles in our country, intellectuals, politicians and media need to be patient and wise.”