By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
Dear people of France, I am writing this message with broken heart regarding the sudden accident occurred last Monday on one of the world religious heritages, Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was really horrifying to see the 850 years old Cathedral being gutted by fire. I know you were crying and lamenting that the national treasure was being lost in no time. I tell you that I watched the incident on television with eyes moistened with tears. I felt that this planet was losing a big religious heritage… It was really upsetting to see in particular the spike falling down being scorched by the fire.
I feel that the demolition of Notre-Dame will also cause the ruining of a number of artworks cautiously placed in it. It is a big loss not only for the French people but also for all other nations across the world. I agree with what New York Times said last Monday that Notre-Dame “is a landmark not only for Paris, where it squats firmly yet gracefully at its very center, but for all the world”. As a Muslim man said, the damage done on the cathedral is a sad incident not only for people of France but also for other nations. “I am a Muslim but I’m still very moved when I see this place… It represents something deep… It’s a loss, not only for France but for the entire world. It’s as if the Pyramids in Egypt were destroyed”.
If the horrible fire had not been controlled, it would have been very heart-rending occasion not to save the Holy Crown of thorns which is believed to have been worn by Christ before His crucifixion including a linen-fabric associated with Saint Louis. It would have really been painful not to see in the cathedral many treasures that include a “17th century organ with all its parts still functional”. However, thanks to God and you in general and the 500 members of the fire departments in particular, these wonderful relics were saved from the horrible fire.
Yes, as it is said by many historians, scholars and reporters, Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and has been immortalized in literary works such as Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” or the French “Notre-Dame de Paris”. According to the New York Times (April 15, 2019), Notre-Dame Cathedral, “the symbol of the beauty and history of Paris”, is visited by 30,000 tourists and pilgrims a day. History tells us that England’s King Henry VI was crowned King of France in the cathedral in 1431, and Napoleon-I had his coronation as Emperor there in 1804. This is wonderful!
I realized from my readings that the artefact, Notre-Dame, endured many challenges. It survived many attacks and experienced threats of extremists. Particularly the November 2015 attacks which left 147 people dead and the massive explosives discovered in a vehicle parked near the Cathedral are the unforgettable occurrences, among others.
Dear French people, we remember that the fire accident occurred a month after the official visit of your president to my country, Ethiopia. During his short stay here, President Emmanuel Macron had a chance to visit one of our national relics, the rock-hewn church Lalibela, a religious heritage registered by UNESCO. What surprises me and many others here is that the rock-hewn church, Lalibela was built around 12-13th century. This means the two wonders of the world, Notre-Dame and Lalibela, are of the same age.
Available sources indicate that a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame, was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The 223-foot-high towers were erected between 1210 and 1250, and the church was officially completed in 1345.” It took 200 years to complete the entire works of the cathedral. Similarly, documented history retells that King Lalibela of Ethiopia built the rock-hewn church, Lalibela (named after the king), between the 12th and 13th centuries. What a coincidence!
Now after 800 years, Lalibela is in danger of collapse. It is now in the status of needing refurbishment. Taking this in to consideration, President Macron pledged to support the renovation; and of course, we witnessed about the visiting team of French experts which was here to assess how the maintenance work could be conducted. I should seize this opportunity to extend my appreciation for the kindness of the French government and people to support the restoration of this cultural and religious heritage of Ethiopians.
Dear people of France, though my country is facing an enormous problem, I should take time to give condolence to you on the misfortune befallen you. We Ethiopians are devastatingly worried about the unprecedented man-made ethnic conflicts that have been causing massive internal displacements. We are bewildered by political uncertainty and inter-party squabbles. We are being scorched by ethnic politics that caused disasters to many countries across the world. I am afraid we might be descending in to chaos. The international community will never forget the massacre in the little African country, Rwanda. Over 800,000 people were butchered in that country for the very reason of ethnic politics and racism… Unless our political leaders stop this political lunacy, we might face bigger problems.
Dear people of France, though we are in such situation, I don’t want to pass a day without consoling you over the misfortune happened on the world’s wonderful relic. Remember the old saying, ‘fire is a good servant, but a bad master’. I have verified this over the recent incidents occurred here in my country. Dear brothers and sisters, we Ethiopians have witnessed sordid destructions of the bad master on two of our famous national parks, which have been recognized by UNESCO.
As you can read in the web site, our Bale Mountains National Park is an important area for several threatened Ethiopian endemic species. These include Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), big-headed African mole-rat, bushbuck, common duiker, klipspringer, Bohor reedbuck, warthog, spotted hyaena and the Bale Mountains vervet (Chlorocebus djamdjamensis). These endemic species have been damaged by the bad master, fire. The second highest point in our country, mount Tullu Dimtu, (4,377 meters above sea level) is found in this National Park. The other park is named Semien National Park. It is of global significance for biodiversity conservation because it is a home to globally threatened species like Gelada Baboon (Theropithecus gelada), the Semien Fox (Canis simensis) and the iconic Walia Ibex (Capra walie), which is found nowhere else in the world. The highest mountain in Ethiopia, Ras Dashen (4,620 meters above sea level) is also located in this Park. By the way, I should extend my heartfelt appreciation to the government of Israel and Kenya for sending their fire fighters along with a helicopter to stop the horrible fire in the Semein National Park.
Yes, though this is the saddest moment for Ethiopia, I should come forward to give my condole to friendly people like you. I hope with your diligence; the damaged cathedral will soon be restored. I personally feel that this is the day when we all must turn our face to our creator, the Almighty God. We should plead with Him to deliver us from annihilation. We should plead with Him to turn his gracious face to us, His children who are wallowing in sin.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org