Thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox followers converged in Addis Ababa over the weekend to celebrate Timket, also known as Epiphany, a religious festival commemorating Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. This annual event, recognized by UNESCO as an important intangible cultural heritage, witnessed vibrant processions from churches to Jan Meda, an open field in the capital.
The heart of Timket involves priests carrying tabots, sacred tents representing the Ark of the Covenant in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, while devout followers in white traditional fabrics chanted, sang, and paid their respects. Students sang hymns, and priests spread incense while sprinkling holy water during the festivities.
Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, used the occasion to underscore the significance of the day and called for peace, unity, and forgiveness. Amid the celebrations, he urged Ethiopia’s leaders to actively work towards peace and address the hunger crisis caused by the Tigray conflict, emphasizing that the Christian faith would be in question if silence persisted in the face of suffering citizens.
However, Timket celebrations faced disruptions in some areas, notably in the Amhara region, where clashes between government forces and the local militia, Fano, created tensions in Gondar. The city, usually a focal point for Timket festivities, experienced cancellations as clashes erupted a few days before the festival.
The conflict in the Tigray region, which concluded in November 2022, has left widespread hunger and displacement. Despite these challenges, the Ethiopian Orthodox faithful, both in Addis Ababa and various regions, celebrated Timket with fervor, emphasizing the resilience of their cultural and religious heritage.
As Ethiopia grapples with regional tensions and humanitarian crises, the Timket festival becomes a poignant reflection of the nation’s struggles and the call for peace and unity echoed by its spiritual leaders.