Begging Tradition: Hustlers Control the Business and Silence of Churches

Photo credit: flickrhivemind.net

I walked on the side of Medhanialem Church with my friends. It was getting darker and the street lights were on. As always, there are so many beggars sit surround the church as they seem guarding it. As the old tradition goes those beggars are there to get food and money – if possible shelter.

A young man, fairly mid twenty who has healthy hands like me and probably his eyes look better than mine, started to follow us. Two of my friends, happen to be foreigners (I already hate to mention this, because of the amount of attention they already got just because of their skin color) are walking in front of me. My other friend is in my left side. The guy started to talk to me. In his own words “Yarada lij, temechut beyachew.” He is Referring to my friends that I should do the brokers job for him to get free money. I had to look up to him. I mean, everyone does this if a person follows up more than 100 meters. Am I wrong?

I didn’t say hello back. He started the conversation with the word “smartass” anyway. He kept talking, he told me stories after stories how the police burn his cloths; how he doesn’t have anything to eat (Look at him). I told him, dude, maybe it is time to start working. He started. But he only started to insult me. He insulted me too much that I couldn’t bear to walk. I stopped. I didn’t want to fight with him. He was fed enough, I couldn’t stand him.

I was asking many questions afterwards, I know some of them won’t even please some of my readers. I cannot conclude anything in this piece of blog post. But this begging tradition is deeper than what an ordinary person can imagine. From a group of people, who should beg to save themselves from epilepsy to how the church was being such a good excuse for beggars not to work. With 365 days off, dedicating all days for saints, the church could only make their name easier for beggars to call them repeatedly. Or the people who go to church and look at these people feel good about themselves. However, the number of beggars is dramatically increasing.

I wanted to be proved wrong, but I encountered many times I see people give 5 cents for 10 beggars each in row. Great, they have got a blessing to go to heaven from 10 people – Smartass. I wonder if the beggars’ prayer didn’t bring them out of begging, how come it will help me to go to heaven?

The churches should create a new work culture among the followers. The priests start to motivate people to work – man, it is win-win. More people work, more money for the church. Simple math. The church has the power to organize and mobilize communities. If a person is sensitive about his belief, that already takes him extra miles. It is religion’s marketing strategy; A great opportunity too. If the churches set-up different humanitarian centers, those 5 cents will help a lot of them later on. The centers will serve as shelters, beggars don’t sleep on the gate of a church anymore – they will go inside. The beauty of the churches can simply attract tourists. The centers will be benefited from the revenue. Once there is food security for the beggars, health care continues. Having them in centers make it possible to help, monitor and raise more funds.

This is 21st century for God’s sake. If you really mean it to be the house of God, make it, not the house of beggars.

How Do You Increase Your Participation in (Tech) Communities?

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One of the most major problems in community organization in Ethiopia is participation. Events suffer with very few interested participants, online forums are without topics and topics are without discussions. Blogs can achieves high views, but less comments.

Recently, we prepared great event on Android, from 250 invitations only 65 registered. From the registered participants – even at the last minute confirmation – 45 came to the event. This is not my first experience with community events. In one occasion, from all confirmed 18 participants (Notably, University instructors), none of them came to the event. So what is the problem?

I want to address this issue from the participants side instead of the event organizers – since this problem mostly existed from confirmed participants – rather than poor marketing strategies

Here are few points how to increase your participation.

Find your interest: In most cases, participants want to go for every event available but at the end not sure where to go and what do afterwards. You can only be active participant if you have huge interest on the topic. Finding your interest is the basic concept to push you out of your bed and go to the event on Saturday morning. If you don’t find your interest, it is less likely that you will enjoy the event/community in the first place.

Understand the community: What is the set-up behind the community? what are the goals? what does your participation contributes? if you miss some days, what are you possibly losing? what do the community, online forum benefit from you? Trying to answer such questions help you to understand the community and how important your participation is.

Identify the Benefits: If you don’t see the benefit of the event, it is high likely that you will choose drinking coffee with a friend instead. Most people measure the benefits in terms of money and incentives (lunch, t-shirts, media coverage etc). In most cases, it is not possible to generate money just participating in the community or commenting on a blog entry. Your benefit is measured on how many network you can establish, contacts you make, and pushing your ideas. usually the benefit of participating in community has long term benefits – can even be money-wise.

Plan: Planning is very important to schedule your priorities. Last minute plan cancellation only shows your incompetence and unpunctuality. Event organizers only expect you to come after your confirmation. If you already not sure coming, you don’t need to confirm. If you are not sure of contributing something on the tech forum, don’t need to sign up.

Trust: Community event organizers most likely don’t get what you usually believe they do. Sponsors give limited amount of money and audit it afterwards. In most cases, the organizers are the one who usually pay the pit cash. Trusting the community you are in is very critical for your active participation. If you suspect, corruption or unfair personal recognition in the community, act upon it.

Increase your participation and create a strong community.

Weekend with Geeks

This weekend i spent the whole time with Android application developers at iceAddis. I have met many talented computer freaks who love to code. This event is particularly prepared for Android developers in Ethiopia – Check my entry at ice Website.

Gtug-addishas prepared this event.

Google Technology User Groups (GTUGs) are user groups for people who are interested in Google’s developer technology; everything from the Android and App Engine platforms, to product APIs like the YouTube API and the Google Calendar API, to initiatives like OpenSocial [ref]

This is actually an interesting community for techies. If you feel like geeking you can always participate the upcoming meetings.

Apart from that, Omar left to Tanzania this weekend to represent EiABC and iceEthioia in the coming eLearning Africa conference . So, basically, for the next 11 days, i will only hang out with Ramy. We will definitely talk about blogs and our insane readers.

Well, I wish for all of you, lovely week days to come.  The judgment day has passed. JD predication only proved there are false prophets around us.

Welcome to Socialist Ethiopia

Not a while ago the government set the price of certain commodities. Those prices were decided by government and some of the items were in short supply. A lot of people were suspicious about the measures where the government is heading to. Instead of creating a competitive environment, it will fractures small businesses. In the same time, some products, like beverages were included and it questioned the ideology behind it.

I personally believe, in the country where the market is highly influenced by few individuals these kind of measures are important. I believe the intentions behind this market regulation is not political or to benefit certain businesses. It is important that the government regulates market flows but increasing production and competitiveness.

Minibus Taxi

Recently, the same kind of measure was taken with Minibus taxi’s route. Today, most of the minibuses were not on the road. They are protesting the decision by the government. People were standing in the side of road for hours waiting for transportation. Normally taxi prices were fixed by the government. The city administration regulates the price depends on the petroleum price. Now with the new rules, the minibus taxis should have label which indicates a fixed source and destination. Minibuses can’t decide where to go anywhere except the single destinations which they are assigned to.

What are the advantages?

Minibuses usually cheat the passengers without going the full distance. (i.e instead of going from point A to B, they only take people half way and ask for more money for the second half).For example, they usually take people from 4kilo to Shoa Dabo instead of Bole directly. The price from 4kilo to Bole is 3.80ETB. But from 4 kilo to Shoa Dabo is 2.60 ETB, the same is true from Shoa Dabo to Bole.

This decision also boosts the traffic control. Usually, it is hard to track accidents. Now with this rule, the traffic police can easily locate a specific minibus.

What are the disadvantages?

Like what many people suspect, these kinds of measures questions how far the government wants to involve in private businesses. Ethiopia is capitalist. It seems that it is not true anymore. With more social oriented decisions, it indicates that the government is heading to Socialism. A single person represent the opposition parties also confirm the ideology. It is a one man playing game.

In this specific decision, it will cause shortage of transportation. I noticed that in area like from Meskel flower to Agona cinema, there are about 20 minibuses standing almost the whole day for nothing. Usually, these minibuses were only working at the pick time (evenings and early mornings), and work other places in the day times. This is not possible anymore.

The label is written in Amharic. Addis Ababa is an international city with a lot of foreigners. Many tourists use minibus taxis and they can’t understand the destinations anymore.

What’s next?

I expect few changes soon, or at least must happen. The first thing is, I expect the minibus owners will be boycotted the decisions. So it is interesting to see how the government will handle the situation. It is true that the transportation in Ethiopia is just a mess – big crazy mess. This area should be addressed soon, otherwise everyone is officially denied from moving from one place to the other.

The minibuses working hours need to be revised. So far it is not allowed for them to work (or as a customary) after 10:00p.m in the evening. I have no idea what is the problem behind this, but the minibuses should be on the road in the night too. It helps people work in the night and motivates many things to be available 24/7.

Killing of the Most Unwanted Person

I was talking with a friend about the killing of Osama Bin Laden and how the world was cheering on the idea of justice finally served.

Shooting a man in the head doesn’t serve justice no matter how the person can be a top terrorist. This doesn’t necessary imply justice as long as the person stands in front of a court, just like other criminals.

The reason behind shooting Bin Laden in the head can be anything from his connection with Bush family to CIA or to satisfy the angry people in US or somewhere else.

But what does it mean for us, for ordinary people like you and me? What does it mean for unarmed person? On the other hand, what does it mean for world leaders who are fantasising shooting people in the head without condemn?

This single event done by the government which is regarded as the most fair and justice let anyone of us unsafe.

It can happen to anyone. American government did it in the name of counter terrorism, why not other governments?