Religion "New Breeding Ground for Conflict"

Religion is the new breeding ground for conflict in Ethiopia, a conference in the capital Addis Ababa heard on Wednesday.

Medhane Tadesse, a senior Ethiopian academic, argued that the religious status quo in the country was being "dramatically eroded, incubating violent confrontation."

His warning came at the end of a three-day conference on federalism, conflict and peace building, hosted by the Ministry of Federal Affairs and the German development agency, GTZ.

"The religious equilibrium is collapsing very quickly," said Medhane, a consultant on conflicts in the Horn of Africa and author of two books on the Horn.

He stated that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was "weak economically and organisationally" and was easy prey for other religions.

Medhane added that more radical religious elements were now replacing the state, which was struggling to deal with the country's "social and economic ills".

"The state has not delivered on these goals, the revolutionary politicians have failed even more dismally, and the hour of the miracle worker - religion - has finally come," he said.

"This may lead to a very fluid and unsettled domestic political situation," he said. "The contemporary religious militancy should be seen as a wholly new phenomenon and a threat to the peace, stability and independence of the country."

Medhane argued that both the Islamic and Evangelical Church were increasingly being backed by foreign interests which were "non-Ethiopian in culture and content".

He also stated that Ethiopia was already witnessing the beginnings of potential clashes between the Orthodox and Pentecostal churches.