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Ethiopian Conceptions of the Human Person and their Implications for Development: Covenant Revisited

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This article is a critical appraisal of the Ethiopian conception(s) of covenant as a device for defining the human person, among other things. After analysing the conceptions of human person in three historical areas, I show their implications for development work. The first part is therefore devoted to the conception of the human person in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), where the notion of covenant is shaped by political monism and philosophical/theological dualism. I explore the reason for such a conceptual enigma, before drawing out its implications for development. The second part explores the Marxist attempt at demystification of the human person at the expense of covenantal understanding. The third part explores the ethnic compartmentalization that was introduced by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) against the covenantal backdrops. In the final part, I argue that using the notion of covenant to understand the human person is essential in the Ethiopian context. Even then, I contend that that there is a need to employ a different epistemology (from the traditional one). Consequently, I argue that (re)conceptualization helps us to avoid repeating historical mistakes and allows us to have a better understanding of the human person with a more progressive approach to development.

Affiliations: 1: International Institute for Development and Ethics, The Netherlands


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