Habesha Community

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The Habesha people or Habesha Community is a grouping of several ethnic groups found in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and their diaspora communities. There are varying definitions of what groups constitute this grouping of ethnic groups known as the Habesha peoples, both within the community and outside of the community. All major definitions of the term are listed bellow.[1][2]

Habesha Community Point of View[change | change source]

The Habesha peoples (Ge’ez Script: ሐበሻ ሓበሻ, ሐበሻ, ሀበሻ, ሃበሻ, romanized: Ḥabäša, Ḥäbäša, Häbäša, Habäša, Abesha; — other native names or rendered in Greek [as] : Αἰθίοψ, romanized: Aithiops (“Ethiopian"), Habesha, or the Habesha Community is a term with a wide range of meanings that is used as a cultural identifier and grouping of multiple interrelated ethnic groups and cultures in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and within communities of Eritreans and Ethiopians in the diaspora. They are a supra-ethnic cultural community containing a continuum of various inter-related cultures and ethnic groups of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin with huge variations in meaning. The most common definition of the endonym Habesha (Ge’ez Script: ሐበሻ) being a pan-ethnic and “supra-national” term identified with the various peoples, cultures, and products of Ethiopia, Eritrea, the ethnic groups that comprise both of those countries, and people of Eritrean and Ethiopian origin in the diaspora who live and have set up their lives abroad, regardless of citizenship or country of residence. It is used as a term to name their intrinsically connected cultural and historical commonalities. In informal settings Ethiopians and Eritreans use the name Habesha (Ge’ez Script: ሐበሻ) in place of their respective countries’ and national origins’ demonym n contexts where topics apply to both countries and cultures or things that originate from there. Historically most are Eastern Christians of the Oriental Orthodox variety with origins in the state Orthodox Tewahedo Church of the Ethiopian Empire, the predecessor body of what would later become the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo churches, but the population also has a number of adherents of other denominations of Christianity like those among the Ethiopian-Eritrean Evangelical churches and Catholics (Eastern Catholics) of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Eritrean Catholic Church, as well as Muslim[3] and Judaism Jewish (Beta Israel) minorities.[4][1][2][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Explanation[change | change source]

Habesha is a name that has different meanings. It is a supraethnicity which is a grouping of several interrelated ethnicities that have similar but unique cultures. It is a cultural identity that goes on top of a person’s ethnicity, national identity, and citizenship. Habesha is a cultural community that contains several different ethnic groups and unique cultures of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia and has two main definitions.

One definition is a meta-ethnic definition of Habesha, which is used to refer to the people who’s ancestors have lived in the Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlands for many generations, generally they speak Ethiosemitic and Agaw languages, and are descended from or related to a common ancestry or ancestral culture before their cultures started spreading apart from each other. They were known as the Habeshat. The term Habeshat (Ge’ez: ሐበሻይት) or Habeshat peoples, is a similar term that most people confuse with Habesha, but the term is generally exclusive and only applies to the Ethiosemitic-speaking (and in certain cases Central Cushitic (Agaw)-speaking) ethnic groups in the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are believed to be the descendants of the Agʿazi people of the Kingdom of Aksum who traveled farther inland and southward settling in North-Central Ethiopia/Eritrea after the collapse of the Aksumite Empire (and in certain cases the Agaw people of the Zagaw Kigdom politically centered in North Central Ethiopia where in constant contact, in political alliances with, and in some cases related to the descendants of the Agʿazi that settled); overtime the Habeshat split into several different but closely related ethnic groups that speak similar languages. [4][1][2][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Another definition is a pan-ethnic definition of Habesha, which s used to refer to all peoples and ethnic groups who’s ancestors come from all over Ethiopia and Eritrea. This means that Habesha culture is made up of several similar but unique cultures, including the cultures of the two main countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the cultures of the 80 or so ethnic groups that comprise the two countries, and the adoption of cultural practices that the large diaspora population has adopted from the countries the live and grew up in outside of their traditional homelands Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Ethiosemitic and Central Cushitic (Agaw) speaking peoples of Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, share a meta-ethnic connection to each other and have a common history. The Ethiosemitic-speaking peoples speak different but similar languages with each other; the Agaw (Central Cushitic)-speaking peoples have the same relationship with each other as well.

The other people groups of Ethiopia and Eritrea are not meta-ethnically Habesha but they can be considered pan-ethnically Habesha . In other words, the Cushitic-speaking, Omotic-speaking, and Nilotic-speaking peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea have their own separate meta-ethnicities, different cultures, and slightly different histories respectively.

The Habesha pan-ethnic identity used mostly by the peoples of Central Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as the diaspora. This pan-ethnic identity emerged because the cultures and peoples of Northern and Southern Ethiopia and Eritrea started interacting with each other leading to commonalities forming between different cultures and ethnic groups in areas of Central Ethiopia-Eritrea and most visibly in the diaspora where these people groups are culturally closer to each other than they are to other people groups outside of their traditional homelands of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Very often, the term is used for groups that are mostly Eastern Christian. Habesha are either Christian or Muslim[3], some are Jewish like the Beta Israel. A sizeable minority of the overall religious population is Muslim, most are Sunnis, a few belong to Sufi orders. Within the Christian population, most are Oriental Orthodox of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo (Orthodox Tewahedo) churches, while Protestants (Eastern Protestants) like the P’ent’ay / Ethiopian-Eritrean Evangelicals make up a sizable minority and Catholics (Eastern Catholics) of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Eritrean Catholic Church exist, and are among the oldest Christian groups known.

The actual number of people who identify as Habesha is unknow, because there is no legal definition defining Habesha identity because it is based only on cultural self-identification of cultural identity. Most attempts to gague the population of Habesha people generally leads to a huge undercount because of the huge variations in defining Habesah cultural identity, and most of the time completely ignores the number of Habesha peoples of all definitions in the diaspora who have left their traditional homelands.

Related Terms[change | change source]

Habeshat[change | change source]

The term Habeshat (Ge’ez: ሐበሻይት) or Habeshat peoples, is a similar term that most people confuse with Habesha, but the term is generally exclusive and only applies to the Ethiosemitic-speaking (and in certain cases Central Cushitic (Agaw)-speaking) ethnic groups in the Highlands of Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are believed to be the descendants of the Agʿazi people of the Kingdom of Aksum who traveled farther inland and southward settling in North-Central Ethiopia/Eritrea after the collapse of the Aksumite Empire (and in certain cases the Agaw people of the Zagaw Kigdom politically centered in North Central Ethiopia where in constant contact, in political alliances with, and in some cases related to the descendants of the Agʿazi that settled); overtime the Habeshat split into several different but closely related ethnic groups that speak similar languages.

Al-Habash, Habishi, Al-Habesha, and Habeşistan[change | change source]

The term Al-Habash (Arabic: الهباش‎, romanized: Al-Habash), is an name for the inhabitants of an ancient region within the Horn of Africa that was centered around the highland portions of modern-day Eritrea, Ethiopia, and included outlying areas of the region (according to some sources extending into Somalia and Djibouti),  the term was taken from the word Habesha. With the territorial expansion of the various Highland Habeshat groups (like the Amhara and Tigray) coming from the north and Oromo and other non-Highland Horn African groups coming from the south conquering neighboring areas (with both eventually expanding southward). Due to territorial expansion and merging of societies, the terms Al-Habash, Habesha and it’s Greek equivalent “Ethiopian,” was expanded over the new territories and its inhabitants, later evolving into the Ethiopian Empire (which Westerners used to call Abyssinia) and the Habesha Community. The term Habishi (Arabic: حَبِيْشي‎, romanized: Ḥabīshī) has throughout history been used as a demonym for the people of Ethiopia when using the Arabic language, in the Turkish language the countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea have historically been referred to as Habeshistan (Turkish: Habeşistan, romanized: Habeshistan) and in its Arabic language cognate they have historically been refed to as Al-Habesha (Arabic: الحبشة‎, romanized: Al-Habesha) with both terms being etymologically related to the name Habesha (Ge’ez Script: ሐበሻ).

Abyssinian, Abyssinia, and Abyssinian peoples[change | change source]

The terms Abyssinian, Abyssinia, and Abyssinian peoples, which comes from the corruption or mispronunciation of the term Al-Habash, by Westerners is seen as controversial by some Ethiopian historians because it causes confusion between the terms “Habesha,” “Habeshat,” “Al-Habesh,” and the demonym of the citizens of the Ethiopian Empire (also known controversially known as Abyssinia). Historians Eva Poluha and Elehu Feleke, state that the distinction made between the names Ethiopia and Abyssinia (a corruption or mispronunciation of Habesha) are artificial and did not exist at the time nor was used in the Ethiopian Empire, they go on to say that Abyssinia “is a European creation derived from the Arabic name” Al-Habash. In other words, the term Abyssinian and its derivatives are unpopular exonyms that makes an “artificial” distinction between the Habesha Community and the peoples of the Ethiopian Empire of present day Ethiopia and Eritrea.[13]

Origins of the Terms Ethiopian and Habesha[change | change source]

The Monumentum Adulitanum, a third century inscription belonging to the Aksumite Empire, indicates that Aksum’s then ruler governed an area which was flanked to the west by the territory of Ethiopia and Sasu. The Aksumite King Ezana would eventually conquer Nubia the following century, and the Aksumites thereafter appropriated the designation “Ethiopians” for their own kingdom when writing in Greek. In the Ge’ez Language version of the Ezana inscription, Aἰθιόποι is equated with the unvocalized Ḥbšt and Ḥbśt (Ḥabashat), and denotes for the first time the highland inhabitants of Aksum when writing or speaking in Ge’ez and Sabic. This new demonym would subsequently be rendered as ‘ḥbs (‘Aḥbāsh) in Sabaic and as Al-Ḥabasha in Arabic, rendered in Ge’ez Script as Habesha (ሓበሻ, ሐበሻ, ሀበሻ, or ሃበሻ; romanized: Ḥabäša, Ḥäbäša, Häbäša, Habäša) from the Greek “Aἰθιόποι”, romanized: Aithiops (“Ethiopian”)), today Ethiopia denotes the modern country of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia while Habesha (Ge’ez Script: ሐበሻ) in informal settings is used by Ethiopians and Eritreans in place of their respective countries’ and national origins’ demonym in contexts where topics apply to both countries and cultures or things that originate from there.

List of Ethnic Groups that make up the Habesha peoples[change | change source]

Aari, Afar, Agaw-Awi, Agaw-Hamyra, Alaba, Amhara, Anuak, Arbore, Argobba, Bacha, Basketo, Bena, Bench, Berta, Bodi, Brayle, Burji, Chara, Daasanach, Dawro, Debase/Gawwada, Dime, Dirashe, Dizi, Donga, Fedashe, Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), Gamo, Gebato, Gedeo, Gedicho, Gidole, Goffa (Gofa People), Gumuz, Gurage, Hadiya, Hamar, Harari, Irob, Kafficho, Kambaata, Karo, Komo, Konso, Konta, Koore, Koyego, Kunama, Kusumie, Kwegu, Majangir, Male, Mao, Mareqo, Mashola, Me’en, Mere people, Messengo, Mossiye, Murle, Mursi, Nao, Nuer, Nyangatom, Oromo, Oyda, Qebena, Qechem, Qewama, She, Shekecho, Xamta, Qemant , Sheko, Shinasha, Shita/Upo, Sidama, Silt’e, Tigurats, Somali (Ogden Region), Surma, Tembaro, Tigrayans (Tigray-Tigrinya), Tsamai, Welayta, Werji, Zelmam (Baale), Zeyese, Tigre, Saho, Bilen, Nara, Yem, etc.  Ethiopian Australians, Ethiopian Canadians, Ethiopian Jews in Israel, Ethiopians in the United Kingdom, Ethiopian Americans, Ethiopians in Denmark, Ethiopians in Germany, Ethiopians in Norway, Ethiopians in Sweden, Eritrean Americans, Eritrean Canadians, Eritreans in Denmark, Eritreans in Norway, Eritreans in Sweden, Eritreans in the United Kingdom, etc. and other Hyphenated Ethnicities.

Cultural Outsiders Point of View[change | change source]

According to the views espoused by Westerners with limited knowledge on the cultures of the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities state that:

Habesha peoples (Ge'ez: ሐበሠተ, romanized: Ḥäbäśät or Ḥabäśät[1]; Amharic: ሐበሻ, አበሻ, romanized: Häbäša, 'äbäša; Template:Lang-ti; etymologically related to English "Abyssinia" and "Abyssinians" by way of Latin) is an ethnic (or pan-ethnic) identifier frequently employed to refer to Semitic language-speaking peoples mainly found in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Historically, the term was applied to predominantly Christian groups, and this usage remains common today. The term is used in varying degrees of exclusion and inclusivity: Most commonly, it includes all highland Semitic language-speaking Christians; sometimes it is employed in an expanded sense to include Muslim communities as well as Christians. At the extremes, the term is currently sometimes employed in a restrictive sense to only refer to speakers of Tigrinya, while recently, some within diasporic communities have adopted the term to refer to all people of Eritrean or Ethiopian origin.

Usage[change | change source]

Template:Related articles Historically, the term "Habesha" represented northern Ethiopian Highlands Orthodox Christians, while the Oromos and other ethnic groups, as well as Muslims, were considered the periphery.[47][48][49][50] Although English usage almost always includes Amharas and all other highland Semitic-speaking peoples, one very restrictive use of the term by Tigrayans refers exclusively to speakers of Tigrinya.[51] Predominately Muslim ethnic groups in the Eritrean Highlands such as the Tigre have historically opposed the name Habesha; Muslim Tigrinya-speakers are usually referred to as Jeberti people. At the turn of the 20th century, elites of the Solomonic dynasty employed the conversion of various ethnic groups to Orthodox Tewahedo Christianity and the imposition of the Amharic and Tigrinya languages to spread a common Habesha national identity.[52]

Within Ethiopian and Eritrean diasporic populations, some second generation immigrants have adopted the term "Habesha" in a broader sense as a supra-national ethnic identifier inclusive of all Eritreans and Ethiopians. For those who employ the term, it serves as a useful counter to more exclusionary identities such as "Amhara" or "Tigrayan". However, this usage is not uncontested: On the one hand, those who grew up in Ethiopia or Eritrea may object to the obscuring of national specificity.[53]:186-188 On the other hand, groups that were subjugated in Ethiopia or Eritrea sometimes find the term offensive.[54]

Etymology[change | change source]

The modern term derives from Semitic languages: Ge'ez: ሓበሠት, romanized: Ḥabäśät, first written in unvowelled script as Ge'ez: ሐበሠት, romanized: ḤBŚT; Template:Lang-xsa; Arabic: حبش‎, romanized: ḥabaš.[55][56] The earliest known use of the term dates to the second or third century Sabaean inscription recounting the defeat of the nəgus ("king") GDRT of Aksum and ḤBŠT. The early Semitic term appears to refer to a group of peoples, rather than a specific ethnicity.

Egyptian inscriptions refer to the people that they traded with in Punt as Template:Lang-egy, "the bearded ones." Francis Breyer believes the Egyptian demonym to be the source of the Semitic term.[56]

The first attestation of late Latin Abissensis is from the fifth century CE. Modern Western European languages, including English, appear to borrow this term from the post-classical form Abissini in the mid-sixteenth century. (English Abyssin is attested from 1576, and Abissinia and Abyssinia from the 1620s.)[57]

History[change | change source]

Abyssinia depicted on map before 1884 Berlin Conference to divide Africa.

Abyssinian civilization has its roots in the pre-Aksumite culture.[58] An early kingdom to arise was that of D'mt in the 8th century BC. The Kingdom of Aksum, one of the powerful civilizations of the ancient world, was based there from about 150 BC to the mid of 12th century AD. Spreading far beyond the city of Aksum, it molded one of the earliest cultures of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Architectural remains include finely carved stelae, extensive palaces, and ancient places of worship that are still being used.

Around the time that the Aksumite empire began to decline, the burgeoning religion of Islam made its first inroads in the Abyssinian highlands. During the first Hegira, the companions of prophet Muhammad were received in the Aksumite kingdom. The Sultanate of Showa, established around 896, was one of the oldest local Muslim states. It was centered in the former Shewa province in central Ethiopia. The polity was succeeded by the Sultanate of Ifat around 1285. Ifat was governed from its capital at Zeila in northern Somalia and was the easternmost district of the former Shewa Sultanate.[59]

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