"Faith leaders are very close to communities in many countries; the leaders earn good respect even from political figures. Hence, they have more responsibilities in creating virtuous citizens."
So says Sheik Imam Umar, vice president of Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme council as The Ethiopian Herald approach faith fathers in connection to their roles in finding middle ground to settle the unrest in few places of Oromia and Amhara States.
In one way or another, every Ethiopian is said to be under the umbrella of a certain religious institution, he says, claiming that this will lead to argue as they have someone whom they give better respect.
To him, faith fathers have a responsibility in directing their followers to a peaceful path, adding some believers even take lesson from their religious leaders' personality. "They consider all actions and behaviors of leaders are always right and perfect."
Sheik Umar goes to say that correct teaching and aligning topics with present context is fundamental to equip the young people's with the wisdom of love, respect and peaceful coexistence.
Side by side with the efforts of the county, religious institutions should devise better mechanisms to address the needs and interests of the youths and build industrious and patriotic citizens.
"This is not the only role fathers play, he stress, in times of unrest, we have more tasks in finding middle ground where differences could be settled. In this regard, we have lots of tasks ahead."
Unrest is normal in many countries, he says, commenting that everyone has to handle it carefully. "Religious fathers have to discharge their responsibilities wisely and in a way it could bring lasting solution."
Nebure Ed, Elias Abrha, Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia Board Member, seconds Sheik Umar's views. He also indicates that every action, be it constructive or destructive starts in the mind. The more positive thoughts people have means the more enjoyable life they get. "In this regard, religious leaders must be exemplary."
To him, the Council has been doing various efforts in triggering tolerance and respect among the society. And this will continue with more fervor, he adds.
Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, who served as president for two terms at Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Eyesus, believes that besides teaching and, religious leaders have to be exemplary to the faithful. "They should demonstrate tolerance and patience."
He has not also shied away from mentioning that the leaders are duty bound in seeking solutions to perceived and real threats.
In a society like Ethiopia where religious institutions and their leaders have a special attachment, no one denies their key role in stabilizing peace, nurturing tolerance and educating the concept of harmony, says Dr. Mesele Mengesteab (Ph.D), Addis Ababa University Social Works Assistant Professor.
"Our social and cultural values are based up on religious perspectives. Our spiritual and religious activities have an attachment with our daily activities. Thus, it is high time for faith fathers to settle any form of discord," he adds.
This is especially true in areas of moral values, tolerance, peace, love and mutual interdependence which are the core values of religious institutions, according to Mesele.
Faith fathers, hand-in-glove with pertinent stakeholders, including the government, ought to set the way ahead straight, he concludes.