New York, NY
Tigist Tesfaye Gelagle, a 25-year-old Ethiopian Mennonite, has keen interest in people outside her culture and context and in interfaith bridge building. Those interests brought her to the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations Liaison Office in New York as a Mennonite World Conference (MWC) intern.
Prior to becoming an intern, Tigist was a student in Global Studies and International Relations at New Generation University College in Addis Ababa. She has experience as a youth and choir leader and discipleship teacher in her home congregation, Gurd-shola Meserete Kristos, located in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Coptic Orthodox Christianity has been present in Ethiopia for 2,000 years. Mennonites came there in 1945 and, along with Lutherans and SIM, shaped the modern Protestant churches in Ethiopia.
“Persecution [intense from 1982–1991] brought us together as Christians,” says Tigist. “We learned about adversity, and suffering became the basis for the growth of evangelical churches.” By the time religious freedom was granted by a new government in 1991, Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) had mushroomed from 5,000 to 50,000 members. It is now growing at a rate of approximately 20 percent per year. MKC is the only Mennonite conference in Ethiopia and the largest MWC-related conference in the world.
At the UN Liaison Office, Tigist works with non-governmental organizations, particularly on issues related to African countries, as well as interfaith bridge building. In working with leaders from Iran, including President Ahmadinejad, she came to realize that living in peace as children of God is about living in God’s harmony regardless of race or religion.
“God doesn’t want human beings to be oppressed [yet] many people suffer from corrupt leaders and a global economic system…. We, God’s people, are the voice of the unheard, a bridge between the powerful and the powerless…a tool for God’s work to set people free,” she says.
—Ferne Burkhardt, MWC