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“Meskel” in Ge’ez translated means “cross”, Meskel is an annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox churches, which commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by the Roman Empress Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. Meskel occurs on the 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendars (September 27, Gregorian calendar, or on 28 September in leap years).
Empress Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, and was born at Drepanum (Heliopolis) to parents of humble means. She married Constantius Chlorus, and their son Constantine was born in 274. Constantius divorced her in 294 to further his political ambitions by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
After Emperor Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Empress Helena, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.
Africa Day (formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day) is the annual commemoration of the 25th May 1963 foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union). It is celebrated in various countries on the African continent, as well as around the world. On 25 May 1963, representatives of thirty African nations attended a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Emperor Haile Selassie I. By that time more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states. It was at this meeting, that the Organisation of African Unity was founded. The African Union theme for 2017 is “Harnessing Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”. This theme was chosen since the future of our continent, our unity, our hopes and aspirations for the peaceful and prosperous Africa, rests in the hands of our young people.
In the late 1950’s, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana introduced the concept of African Unity to the continent this concept, stressed the immediate unity of the African continent.
He was inspired by the writings of black intellectuals such as Marcus Garvey, W. E. B. Du Bois, and George Padmore, and his relationships with them. Much of his understanding and relationship to these men was created during his years in America as a student. Some would argue that his greatest inspiration was Marcus Garvey.
Haile Selassie Triumphantly returns to Addis Ababa
On this day 5th May 1941, Emperor Haile Selassie re-enters Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, exactly five years to the day of when it was occupied by Italy. Ethiopia known widely as Abyssinia was one of the first countries to be liberated during the Second World War.
Benito Mussolini had been eyeing Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia) as an economic colony to be added to Italian Somaliland, in East Africa, since the 1920’s. Italy had an old score to settle after being one of the only countries to be defeated by an African Power during the first Italio-Ethiopian War by the then Ethiopian Emperor Menelik at Adowa on 1 March 1896. He hoped to resettle 10 million Italians in a unified East Africa.
On 4th May 1940, the Ethiopian World Federation lost one of its brightest shining stars, and founding member, Dr Malaku. E. Beyen to lobar pneumonia. His death came almost four years to the very day of the Italian entrance into Addis Ababa and one year prior to Haile Selassie’s triumphant return to the Ethiopian capital.
Of Dr Bayen Haile Selassie in his Autobiography wrote “In the month of May 1940, we heard of the death, in America, of our loyal servant Dr. Malaku Beyen. When we were told of his death, we mourned him at our residence in Bath. Dr Beyan was our palace servant whom we raised up from childhood. Realizing his diligence and farsightedness, we sent him to be educated in America in 1921, and hardworking as he was, he became a medical doctor. When the Italians invaded Ethiopia, he came to serve his country and his Emperor, and marched to Maychew with us. He had a strong desire to help wounded soldiers and we have heard about the service he rendered operating on them. Dr. Malaku Beyen came to England with us after the war. Them he proceeded to America, where he worked hard to help Ethiopia in any way possible. He did a commendable job of mobilizing and organizing African Americans in supporting Ethiopia’s cause”……………. Haile Selassie I.
Just as Dr Beyen had succeeded in sustaining interest among black Americans in the plight of Ethiopia, in effect creating a greater understanding between some of his countrymen and Afro-Americans, his life was brought to an abrupt end. With one swift stroke sudden death had not only dispossessed a young woman and her son, of a husband and father but had also as the Voice of Ethiopia eulogized, deprived Ethiopians and Afro- Americans of “one of the most useful and promising of the young leaders of the race.”