Ethiopia: Support critical to rebuild lives and community of church seminary

Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale, president of the Mekane Yesus Seminary, on the ground level stairway to a dormitory floor. The walls bear the stained marks of the height that flooding waters had reached. All Photos: LWF/M. Dölker
Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale, president of the Mekane Yesus Seminary, on the ground level stairway to a dormitory floor. The walls bear the stained marks of the height that flooding waters had reached. All Photos: LWF/M. Dölker

LWF pledges commitment as Mekane Yesus Seminary maps out reconstruction plans after flooding

(LWI) – Nearly a month after deadly flash floods caused deaths and destruction at the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the institution requires assistance not only to rebuild infrastructure and buildings but to also provide spiritual support to the faculty and student community and their families.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is working with the leadership of the Mekane Yesus seminary, the higher theological training institution of The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), and with partner organizations to respond to the immediate and long-term needs. “The psychosocial impact of the catastrophe is significant, especially for those who lost loved ones. Many students and faculty staff not only lost property, but their homes, personal items and valuable memories,” Marina Dölker, LWF Program Executive for Diakonia and Development said following her visit there on 30 August.

 LWF/M. Dölker

Volunteers on the campus site helping to clean up and retrieve personal belongings.

She noted the MYS compound was still marked by destroyed houses and roads, scattered furniture and mud-covered personal belongings.

Stories were shared of people not being able to take anything with them but what they had on their bodies because the water swept through unexpectedly fast, flooding entire homes and washing away cars. Many risked drowning in the floods while trying to rescue others in the disaster in which the lives of five adults and three children were lost.

“Dr Bruk shared that the scope and impact of the floods exceeded anything he and his team could have imagined,” Dölker said, recalling conversations with Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale, the MYS president. She continued, “Everyone was deeply shocked, and yet they had to immediately start navigating a very complex situation: providing relief to those affected, getting students’ study programs back on track, planning on how to rebuild the seminary, while taking into account appropriate preparedness systems to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.”

 LWF/M. Dölker

Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele Asale, president of Mekane Yesus Seminary, pointing to water marks on the ground floor of students’ dormitories.

A seminary committee has assessed the damage, Dölker. The urgent priority is to address the basic needs of displaced faculty staff, students and their families. This includes renting off-campus apartments for six months, and providing them with new clothes and food packages for at least two months.

 LWF/M. Dölker

EECMY President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa looks through a pile of damaged personal belongings.

A second priority is replacement of lost or damaged properties of families, students and the seminary itself, which would include durable and non-durable items such as furniture and electronic appliances. This phase would also cover repair to damaged properties that can be salvaged such as sections of the kitchen, student dormitories, dining hall, roads, drainage and sewage systems.

 LWF/M. Dölker

Houses of faculty members and other staff.

In a third phase the seminary plans to construct residential apartments for the displaced faculty and staff within one year. As building of new staff quarters was already part of an MYS master plan for the further development of the compound, the building will replace the destroyed faculty staff houses.

 LWF/M. Dölker

Devastating impact to the interior.

The seminary is near a river whose banks burst leading to the flash flooding. Preventing a future disaster is part of the reconstruction, and the local government has committed its support to widen the river and build a temporary blockage during the current rain season, which will be replaced with a permanent retention wall later on.

In order to support the seminary in an effective way, the LWF has started to coordinate among its partners who have expressed readiness to provide assistance. “This is a time of communion solidarity,” said Eva Christina Nilsson, Director of the Department for Theology, Mission and Justice. “We stand with the EECMY and the Mekane Yesus Seminary as a global communion of churches, and will support in whichever way we can.”

The Mekane Yesus Seminary has around 1,400 students across four colleges: of Theology, Music and Media, Management and Leadership, and of Theological Studies. Its campus has been home to around 600 residential students, management and leadership staff.

By LWF/P. Mumia


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