Zumra Nuru: His Awramba Community and His Quest for Utopia
Zumra Nuru, the founder and Co-Chair of Awramba Community
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 4, 2009 (Ezega.com) -- Zumra Nuru never got a chance to go to school. He cannot read or write. However, as a child, he was a very inquisitive kid. When he was 2 years old, he questioned his mother about religion. One day, he ate a piece of meat from one of his Christian neighbors. This offended his Muslim family, including his mother. His mother snatched the meat from him and threw it away. He was very sorry and asked his mother, “why can’t I have that meat?”
His mother replied “it belongs to Christian people”. Zumra asked “What is Christian, are they not human beings?” His mom replied, “Yes, they are.” Zumra followed on, “Are we not human beings as well?” And his mother replied “Yes we are human beings, too.” “So why can’t we have the same meat?” Zumra asked. His mother could not reply.
When he turned 4 years old, he started questioning about the behavior of human beings. He observed the unfairness on gender inequality, maltreatment of the elderly, labor exploitation, cruel punishment of children, and dishonest dealings among people.
When he brought various questions that bothered him inside the house, his parents and relatives considered him mentally ill person. When he turned 13 he was thrown out of his family house. At the age of 20,he decided to travel to places to preach his ideology. In 1980(E.C.), he founded the then 19 member association called Awramba Community. At that time, this group was ostracized by the society and its followers considered radicals. At some point, they were forced to flee their homes, their land confisicated, and their leader, Numra Nuru, arrested for several months.
Awramba was founded in Fogera Woreda in southern Gonder zone of the Amhara Regional State. Currently, the community has 403 members in 109 households, living over 17 heactars of land. The Awramba Community has its own rules and regulations. Formulated by Zumra, the community has four pillars of rules for its society. These are Gender equity; the right of children; the principle of helping the less fortunate, ill and old; and the principle of discouraging dishonesty, lying, murder and stealing.
The Awramba Community does not follow any religion, and they believe in honesty and love for all human beings – this is their religion. Children and women are respected and equal to male adults. They have home-tutors for children from 3-5 years and a library (out of mud hut) and few classrooms. When Zumra is asked about ethnic or religious affiliations he simply says “we belong to every ethnic group; not one or the other; after all, we are creatures of one God (whatever you name it), and we only have one father. How can we choose one while we can have it all?”
Eden Habtamu of Ezega News met with Zumra Nuru, 62, and his wife Enani Kibret, 35, and interviewed them at a hotel in Addis Ababa. Zumra was on visit to Addis Ababa after being invited by Addis Ababa University students to share his experience.
Ezega.com: I am very pleased to have you for my interview, would you please introduce yourself, where were you born and where did you grow up?
Zumra: I am Zumra Nuru, the founder and co-chairperson of the Awramba Community. I was born in Tsimada Wogeda. I grew up in Esti Woreda in Gonder.
Ezega.com: What led you to come up with such astonishing ideas and to form this exemplary community?
Zumra: I came up with such an idea out of things that I have seen in my family. My parents were farmers. They both spent the whole day in the farm but when they came back home it was time for my father to rest but never for my mother. After she has been through the same tiresome day with my father, she had to do everything at home. She was expected to cook, clean the house, and us, the children, wash my father’s foot, serve the traditional meal. On the top of that, when my mother could not take care of the house on time, my father abused, insulted and sometimes harmed her. I just wondered why this had to happen to my mother as if she had extra strength or something. But I realized later that this was not an isolated event that only happened in our house, rather it was happening in all families. At the time, I believed (as I do now) that the man as a father and the women as a mother should be engaged in duties in accordance to their capacities and should both be respected and treated equally.
The second thing I noticed was that the right of children is not respected in our society as it should be. Too often, children are engaged on duties that do not take into account their capacities for doing things.
The third issue I have is, all too often, the less fortunate and the old do not have anyone to take care of them. They may not even have anything to eat and a place to live. But the young and the stronger ones are having the good time and don’t have time to look after the less fortunate ones in our society.
Fourth, I saw people hurting, killing, and stealing from one another. I knew that we as people were doing something to others that we would hate if it happened to us. I kept asking why? How do we differ from animals if we don’t think and behave humanly? When I asked my parents such questions, my parents thought I was mentally ill person. But I could not get answers for my questions, nor proof that I was indeed mentally ill.
Ezega.com: How did you get the courage to teach your principles and succeed against all odds?
Zumra: I cannot answer such things. It is not completely a human thing. I did not learn such matters from anyone. I started asking questions since I was four. It is a gift from God – actually a responsibility. I have been through a very rough time, so you can say it is more of a burden.
Ezega.com: People are listening to you now and you have your community. Are you happy that you are past the time when no one was listening and you were considered mentally ill person?
Zumra: I shall say it is a bit better now than it was before. At least people are listening. But what matters to me is when people not only listen but also put our teachings into practice. Then I will be very happy.
Ezega.com: Do you believe that it is practical and realistic that you can persuade our society to follow such rules?
Zumra: That is exactly what makes me sick. I did not know how to tell what I am thinking and feeling inside. It’s a burden for me. Sometimes I wish I could run away from my conscience, but I just cannot. The people that I love very much do not even understand me. I usually run away for a month or twenty days, just to find some break, but I will be back home again and start teaching although they considered me a mad person.
I am thankful for the acceptance we get from everyone for the past 5-6 years. I have been in trouble often and my community has also been in trouble often. We have been migrating from place to place just because people did not understand what we were trying to do. I am thankful at least that we are recognized as a harmless community now.
Ezega.com: What was your main goal when you formed the “Awramaba” community?
Zumra: Generally, in addition to my pervious four points, I wanted to reach literate people everywhere so that my thoughts reach the larger population. I wanted peace and love among all human beings. I believe little by little people are listening to what we are saying. We have many visitors from Ethiopia and from all over the world. I just wanted to take out what was bothering me for a long time. I think I did a little to reach the human heart, but a lot remains for you, the next generation.
Ezega.com: Let me come to you, Enani. Zumra seems a bit tired with the speech he has been giving at different places. I understand that “Awramba” has thirteen committees which help your community function properly. Would you mention some of them and their duties and responsibilities?
Enani: Okay, We have development committee which consults the community to be more productive and effective. Reception committee is responsible to welcome and comfort our guests and visitors. Complaint committee has the duty to listen to complaints and find solutions, even if it is rare to see complaints in our community. Problem detectors, Hygiene, Security, Law Makers, Elders’ supporters, Maternity nurtures, and field work facilitators are some of the committees.
Ezega.com: How many of the Awramba community members went on to get higher education? Are they contributing something back to their community?
Enani: As you know our number is very small. Five students graduated from universities and currently eleven are studying in different fields. Some of them are assisting us and others are working on their own.
Ezega.com: Regarding facilities in your community, what do you lack the most and hence need help from outside?
Enani: We need a modern weaving machine that can function easily and is more productive. The one that we are using is very laborous and less productive.
Ezega.com: I have heard that you have seventeen hectares of land for 403 people; is it enough for you community to live and farm on?
Enani: No, it is not enough. We have approached the government to give us more land so that we can be more productive. We may even export our products abroad and improve our living in the process. Everyone in our community is eager to work on any field. We just wish to have more land and some modern machines.
Ezega.com: Finally, what advice do you wish to give to your fellow citizens?
Enani: I believe the greatest treasure we have in this world is us human beings. Regardless of everything else, I wish we understand that we are from the same origin; we should love and respect one another. This is my greatest wish and advice to my fellow Ethiopians.
Ezega.com: I thank you indeed. Have a good night.
Enani: Never mind! And Good Night
Zumra: Thank you and Good Night
This article was written by Eden Habtamu reporting for Ezega.com from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She can be reached by email at News@Ezega.com. The article can be reprinted in full or in part elsewhere but only by giving full credit to Ezega.com. If reprinted on a website, we ask that you place this active link: Ezega Ethiopian News, pointing to http://www.Ezega.com.