Ethiopian PM calls for long-standing peace amid Meskel celebrations

ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday urged Ethiopians from all walks of lives to maintain the long-standing peace and togetherness.

The premier made the call as part of his message on the celebrations of Meskel festival – a religious festival celebrated on Sept. 26 and 27 among Orthodox Christians to mark the finding of the True Cross.

Ahmed, who urged the various groups of the east African country to uphold peace and maintain longstanding values of unity and togetherness, also urged the public to avoid confusions and misunderstandings that lead to quarrelsome among Ethiopian communities and groups.

“We have to come together with a common notion that denotes united we stand, divided we fall,” he stressed.

Ethiopian Christians late on Wednesday commenced celebrating the two-day Meskel festival with public bonfires and religious processions across the east African country.

Orthodox Christians, who make up about 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population of some 100 million, believe Meskel is an affirmation of hope coming soon after the Ethiopian New Year, which falls on Sept. 11.

The largest religious procession and public bonfires was made in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday.

Among the attendants of the festival in the capital Addis Ababa include Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, religious leaders and tens of thousands of locals and tourists.

The city of Addis Ababa has been the center of Meskel celebrations since it was first founded more than 100 years ago.

Tens of thousands of people, many holding up candles in the failing light as the sun set, crowded on terraces around the square where the ceremony was led by the head of Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox church, Patriarch Abune Mathias.

Dressed in his golden ceremonial robes, the patriarch delivered blessings to mark what the church believes was the discovery in the fourth century of the cross of Jesus by Queen Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

Ahmed’s call on Wednesday came amid increasing tensions in the country, which include the recent deadly conflict that killed 28 people on the outskirt of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

The conflict early last week also drove more than 15,000 people to flee and seek refuge in schools and other public facilities across Addis Ababa.

Amid improved situations, majority of the displaced people have returned to their respective localities following massive government-led efforts to make peace among the conflicting groups.

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