Saturday, September 17, 2011

Huntington's Clash of Civilizations in Microcosm?

Ethiopian Evangelicals
(Image from Christianity Today)

I see from Wikipedia ´╗┐that Ethiopia is about 33.9 percent Muslim and about 62.8 percent Christian, the latter divided into 43.5 percent Orthodox and 19.3 percent other denominations, mostly Protestant, I suppose. The place is thus one in which to take a glance through a Huntingtonian lens, though of no statistical validity admittedly. Huntington argues that Western Christianity, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam form the basis of different civilizations and that the clashes among civilizations reflect the clashes among religions. He might have therefore expected three-way clashes in Ethiopia, perhaps similar to those in Bosnia.

Let's look at what Matthew D. LaPlante says of the three religious groups in his article "Growing in the Word" for Christianity Today (September 16, 2011):
In 2002, a mob of Orthodox priests and adherents carrying axes and machetes attacked Protestants in the town of Merawi, injuring many and killing Pastor Damtew Demelash of the Full Gospel Believers Church. Just a few years earlier . . . a stone-throwing mob of Orthodox Christians attacked Protestants attending a conference, wounding 51.

But at St. Gabriel's Orthodox Church, priest Aba Mezmur Hawaz tells his parishioners not to quarrel with fellow Christians. If someone is better able to see God through a Protestant lens, he said, so be it. "The whole world of Christians -- we are all going to go up one way together."

He gave a different assessment of the Muslims in his community. "They will go a different way," he said. "And if they want to fight with us, we will fight with them."

This is not a matter of simple religious prejudice. In recent years, both Orthodox and Protestant Christians have been the victims of attacks by Islamic extremists, which killed several people and destroyed scores of Christian homes and churches. Although they are still relatively rare, such attacks have brought Christian leaders together for support, protection, and prayer.
This Ethiopian microcosm of the clash among these three religious groups might appear to illustrate Huntington's views, but not quite to the letter, for attacks by Islamic extremists would seem to be motivating the Orthodox and the Protestants toward religious unity. On a civilizational scale -- if I might be allowed to speculate in a statistically meaningless way -- this could imply that the rise of Islamism in the Muslim world and corresponding attacks upon Christians of all denominations would also give rise to increasing unity between Western Civilization and Orthodox Civilization.

But this, of course, is mere speculation that depends upon Huntington being both right and wrong . . .

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At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Scott A. said...

Given what has been reported in other violent clashes in Africa, I'd need to hear about tribal affiliation as well as religious. More than likely, the religious background will largely coorespond to tribal membership, and then sorting out which is more influencial in the violence becomes likely immpossible.

What is the likelyhood these or those tribal groups be clashing without the religious, civilizational element? (A rhetorical question)

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's a good question, and I don't know the answer.

The question did occur to me, but I didn't raise it . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:31 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

I basically think that the likelihood would more or less be the same. (Again, in the light of what I called, by large, "Mediterranean mood," and of Schopenhauer's philosophy as to the relationship between basic will and super-imposed "reasons.")

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If we're dealing with tribes . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:10 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

... great tribe-ulations.

(P.S. looking forward to your counterpuns in Puntheism eh!)

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the implicit tribute . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:19 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I think over the thousands of years this has been a relatively cohesive culture, I wouldn't think there would be a clash of civilizations since I see Ethiopia as one. A clash of tribes or religion do not make a clash of civilization.

At 7:29 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, you're right that Ethiopia has been more cohesive as a long-existing nation than many others, so it might continue to cohere despite religious divisions.

I worry, though, about the outside force of Islamism influencing the Muslim third of the nation.

We'll see.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huntington wrote: "Cleft countries that territorially bestride the faultlines between civilizations face particular problems maintaining their unity. [...] Largely Christian Ethiopia and overhwelmingly Muslim Eritrea separated in 1993." He also describes it as a "lone country" -- isolated from its surroundings. And "Historically, Ethiopia constituted a civilization of its own."

In his map, Huntington shows Ethiopia as a lighter shade of brown, reflecting its fault-line status.

Increasing unity between Orthodox and Protestant Christians in the face of a deeper conflict with Islam is fully consistent with Huntington's theory and worldview.

At 10:24 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks for the comment, but I still have questions. Huntington noted the faultlines in Yugoslavia, and when it broke into Catholic, Orthodox, and Islamic factions, the Catholics and Muslims worked together against the Orthodox, but later split as well. The three groups are mutually hostile, and there is no alliance of Western and Eastern Christians against Muslims. I don't see that Huntington's theory clearly predicts such an alliance in Ethiopia.

Jeffery Hodges

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