Rachel - Awramba
06/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
I'm generalising of course, and we have been here over a period of special religious activity, but I think it's safe to say that Ethiopia is country with a deep seated religious faith. Be that their own unique branch of Christianity or Islam. So we were pretty surprised to hear of a community, an hour or so from Bahir Dar, which professes to be without religion.
The village of Awramba was founded by a man who claims not to be a prophet or a leader but simply a man with an ideal,and that ideal is that the most important thing is to treat fellow human beings with kindness. But furthermore that the problems of poverty will not be alleviated by prayer but by hard work in an equal society. In this village there is no "men's work" (traditionally weaving, fishing) or "women's work" (traditionally spinning cotton, cooking) and older members of society are not discarded once they are too old to contribute,but instead there is education forall ages who want it, care of the elderly and the weaving workshops (which is the main way they generate income for the village) are occupied by both sexes performing all jobs.
The village itself has a very welcoming and peaceful feel. We were greeted by a community member who showedus round the dormitories for the elderly,inside a home with their innovative energy saving stove,the school room, library and the weaving workshops. All the while explaining that the founder doesnt not believe in God but that there is no need for a church or building becuase he doent want to give that creator a name, or designate a place where They are to be "found". It is also fine to have noreligion at all because "the most important thing is how you treat the human being". She also explained about how a member of the community has to adhere to the rules of kindness and respect and hard work, and how conflict is resolved, support is given,developments and improvements made and generally how the community functions under this system. At the end of the talk we were introduced to the founder who could answer any of our questions about his ideas and the community. he was a softly spoken man who stressed that he just had an idea, that was all - he wasnt in charge and he hoped it was a good idea that would be shared by others.
I thought they made a lot of sense and in a place where people often seem to use religion to excuse terrible personal conditions it was also something special to see people using their own skills and resources to improve their own lives. Maybe in some years time they'll have a tent at Glastonbury....
(ps. also of note was amusing a group of schoolgirls on the walk back with only the few Amharic words we had in the back of our guidebook inc. a staged argument using only the word for "cow" and the word for "donkey")