St. Frumentius locally known as Abba Selama or Father of Peace is a well known Greek Pope to Ethiopia. He came to Ethiopia in the early days when Orthodox Christianity arrived in the country around the fourth century AD. After consecrated by the Coptic Orthodox church, Abba Selama had baptized numerous Ethiopians starting from the then ruler, King Ezana. The pope died around 383 AD.
Today, Saint Frumentius is feasted on August first in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Ethiopian traditions credit him with the first Geez translation of the New Testament. He is also reputable for his remarkable effort in the development of Geez script from the Abgd, merely consonant, into Abugida, syllabic alphabets.
Since then, the Ethio-Greek relationship has been growing through time. And turned a century old now. Last Friday the historic relation was commemorated at the Greek Embassy in front of a big crowd including higher government officials,diplomats,dignitaries and media people.
Opening the occasion, Greek Ambassador to Ethiopia Nikolaos Patakias said that he had a deep conversation with President Dr. Mulatu Teshome up on meeting the President to offer his credential. "When I first met President Dr. Mulatu, I spoke to him that Greeks and Ethiopians are good friends. But he told me I was wrong, mentioning that the two countries are best described as brothers instead." The centennial anniversary was colorful throughout the night.
Remembering the first Greek mission to Ethiopia dated back to 1917, with the establishment of the Greek Consulate, which became Greek Embassy in 1935, the ambassador said that the two countries historical and diplomatic relation has been strengthening through time assisted by their inter-religious and cultural linkages. Historically, the ancient gold coins of Ethiopia had inscriptions of some of Greek words and the ancient Sabean monumental inscriptions are today being translated from Greek to Ethiopian languages.
"We are distant in geography, but close in the heart. That is why we had opened Greek Embassy with the first seven countries in Addis Ababa almost century ago." Since then, the ties between the two countries has been growing to economic partnership level and today Greece is engaged in Ethiopia in education and investment. The Ambassador noted that, while the relation between the two countries is maturating through time, as compared to the century-long relation, it needs to be further cemented.
Speaking at the centennial, Foreign Affairs State Minister Dr. Aklilu Halemichael, said that Greek is a historical diplomatic partner to Ethiopia. The two countries have multifaceted cooperation in culture, education, economy, and urban development. "The current villages in Addis named Saris and Bambis are the living historical testimonials to the Hellenic republic contribution to the development of Ethiopia's and African capital, Addis Ababa."
Ethiopia has facilitated important investment allurements such as infrastructure, less expensive labor force, and raw materials, so that Greek investors can tap the opportunity by investing in the areas of agriculture, technology, textiles, trade and investment, Dr Aklilu said. According to him, in the long history of the two countries' relation, the people have made close interracial relation, therefore, it is positive to use this tie for public diplomacy.
The centennial was accentuated by a documentary film and Hellenic cultural dance. The documentary dealt on the century old relation of the countries starting from the period of Greek pope Fremnatius, who came to Ethiopia during the Axumite Kingdom. It also discussed about the Ethio-Greek relationship in various reigns.
The Hellenic cultural dance was presented by students from the School of Greek Embassy attired in Greek costumes. According to student Megdelin Eshetu, the cultural dances are known as Sirtaki and Kalamatiano cultural dances. The Greeks normally perform them during honorable festivities decorated by their traditional attires. Megdelin has been learning the history and culture of Ethiopia and Greek. She had also learnt Greek and Amharic languages. For her, the school taught her the relation between the two countries in a very impressive manner and approach highlighting the historical and religious aspects.
Elshaday Glipti, is a grade seven student. For her the two countries have a strong connection. They have religious and historical similarities regardless of differences in culture and language. The Greeks celebrate only the time they were inactivate from war. "But we have various annual holidays and celebrations." She learned Greek language. Such as yasas, to say hello and kalay me tikanis to respond as I'm fine. Her father is Hellenic. In their school, all the necessary equipment is supplied by the Embassy. The school teaches Greek, French, English and Amharic languages among others. It also delivers courses in science and history. "We learn all the essential lessons. That is why we all know about history, science and cultures of the two countries and perhaps about the world", she noted.
Another participant Haphomia Wesene, said that Ethiopia and Greek have a better relation and that relation in turn has been helping the people of the two countries to share their common historic, religious and cultural values. "We are learning the history and languages of the countries simultaneously." Most of the students have a biracial blood of the two countries either on paternal or maternal side. Therefore, it is a must for them to know well about the peoples of each country and their lifestyles.
Manole Assefa, one of the lecturers and coach of the Greek school notes that the school is undertaking important role in strengthening the century-old Ethio-Greece relation in all spheres by teaching the students about culture, discipline and national feeling of the countries.
Lessons related to Ethiopian and Greek nationalism are given to students. The content of the courses ranges from the meaning of the countries name and history to their current status. As a result, the students will deepen their understandings about the countries and make their future smooth. "In this sphere the ancient Greek historians help us to decode the secrets of the achievements of the countries. Herodotus, Homer and other have written about Greek and Ethiopia. Therefore,it is supportive to raise these issues in the classroom."
"We also teach them the language of the two countries. Today, we are giving lessons to some 100 students." Above all the historic religious relation has created a tight bond among the countries. In religion, we have close contact especially in orthodox Christianity. As such, students and other members of the Embassy attend the Ethiopian Orthodox annual holidays.
Greek has a commemorating square in Athens named Abyssinia to remember that Ethiopia was one of their historical strategic partner that lent them a helping hand during their trying times. The square was christened Abyssinia after emperor Haileselassie I ,who dispatched material aid when Greek was in time of need.
Promoting and strengthening such historical relation will help Ethiopia scale up economic integration and public diplomacy. It seems the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is striding good in its duties. But instead of praising what had been achieved, it is better to strive for the diversification of the country's interaction with the rest of the world. In this sphere, taking the bilateral tie with Greek to new heights could be one of the starting points.