Monday, July 4, 2011

Dueling calls to prayer

From Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Greetings from Addis Ababa! We arrived yesterday at 7:45am local time and spent two hours in the airport before meeting our hosts and making our way to what will be home for this week, the "compound" for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Ethiopia. We've mostly been relaxing and trying to overcome jet lag. Today our hosts, Dan & Karin, who are just today starting their jobs as the new country reps for MCC Ethiopia, met with my practicum supervisor, Mekonnen, and they worked out a plan for us this week which will allow my wife, daughter, and I to all observe and participate in various MCC-related projects around Addis. We'll also be visiting Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) offices and their peace program. We got out of the compound today for separate trips to exchange some currency to the Ethiopian birr, and then Erin and Lauren went with Karin and an MCC service worker to get groceries for the week.

One story I'll share on the dueling calls to prayer. The MCC compound sits on a hill in whose valley is a mosque and an Ethiopian Orthodox (Coptic) church. Both houses of worship have loudspeakers attached to them and both observe what the Christian tradition would call "the hours" for prayer. Both start at about 5am and continue periodically throughout the day until well into the night. And both start their prayers at nearly the same time. From the porch on the compound, one call comes up from the left (I think it's the mosque), the other from the right (Coptic). Erin and I are sleeping in a converted shipping container (we're calling it "the can" or "the box"), outside the main house in the compound with the door open for better airflow. One side-effect of this arrangement is that we hear everything that's going on outside, the neighborhood dogs barking all night, and these dueling calls to prayer.

Over the past day, hearing these calls, it's struck me that hearing both call me to prayer. I've simply never heard anything like this in the U.S. If you observe the hours in the places I've lived, you have to keep your own schedule. I love the communitarian dimensions of these public (and very loud) calls to prayer and the motivation it gives me to attend to the prayerful side of our trip here.

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