"I'm very thankful for the opportunity to travel around the northern part of Ethiopia with a learned, enthusiastic, and friendly group of scholars. Ethiopia's defiance of stereotypes and facile classification became very apparent on our trip: it's in sub-Saharan Africa, but it has a vibrant, ancient, and unique Christian history and culture. Compared to Western nations it is a poor country with large swathes of dry land, yet it is the only country in Africa to have resisted colonization. It's not Arab, but the national language is in the Semitic family and its Muslim population is arguably one of the oldest in the world. It is far away from Israel, yet it has a curious connection to Judaism that, while perhaps lost to history, continues to permeate Ethiopian identity. Equally remarkable is how much research remains to be done on Ethiopian history, religious and otherwise. Now that it is 'on our maps,' I am eager to see if and how Ethiopia may enter into our different research projects."
Lloyd Abercrombie, PhD candidate, University of Oslo
Both as student and as scholar, any change of scenery can be beneficial, but when travelling in a context very different from one’s own, we can also be exposed to some of the limitations in our imagination, as we learn about different ways of life. The seminar in Ethiopia was a learning experience that cannot be undone. It brought me to a point in which I cannot consider the history of Christianity from strictly European perspective. Visiting the many sites of Aksumite civilization and other material remains made the long history in Ethiopia vividly very apparent to us. The visits to monastic settings were also thought-provoking and inspiring for someone having a special interest in asceticism and gender.
Vilja Alanko, PhD candidate, University of Helsinki
As a scholar of Semitic languages with only a rudimentary experience of the Semitic languages of Ethiopia, the excursion gave me important insights into the Ethiopian linguistic heritage and an impetus to deepen my knowledge of these languages. Churches, monasteries and libraries in Ethiopia are the guardians of innumerable manuscripts still to be critically studied and commented upon. The Ethiopian-Orthodox tradition is an exceedingly important branch of Christianity that, sadly enough, is very little known in the rest of the world. The Ethiopian-Orthodox tradition represents a cultural heritage that is old and unique in many ways, both in its tangible archaeological remains and in a living spiritual as well as intellectual legacy.
Bo Holmberg, Professor of Semitic Languages, Lund University
As a biblical scholar who spends his time with mostly written texts, it was enlightening to see how the Ethiopian Church has rewritten and recast the biblical narrative into the very landscape of Ethiopia, essentially re-creating the story from stone and making it part of Ethiopia's heritage. And as one walks through the complex of monolith churches, it becomes easy to recognize the richness and tenacity of the tradition; this text envelopes those who visit Lalibela and demands one's full attention and participation.
Jeremy Penner, postdoc Canada