Drs. Keshi Fitsum and Keshi Tekle-Ab came of age when the Church [Tewahdo Orthodox] they confessed to was at an inflection point so much so that the stereotype [“backward” with “unrefined” clergy] that had loomed large for centuries was on a verge of oblivion but the ultra-Conservative lot within the Church—laced with paranoia were determined to maroon the Church to where it had been and took the academic achievement of both Keshi Fitsum and Keshi Tekle-Ab [the former a Psychiatrist and the latter Endocrinologist] as an alien that could only be prevalent within the enclave of Catholics or Protestants. As such, tramped up charges and allegations were concocted when the totalitarian regime also joined the foray and accused them of stripping the youth of its patriotic spirit and values. The charges were laid out, sealed and delivered. It has been nineteen years since both have been thrown into the dungeons and their whereabouts is still unknown. The totalitarian regime remained true to its Sahil culture [anti-intellectualism] and the ultra-Conservative clergy—inflicted with moral decadence took living untruth and conformity as an article of faith. The indictment is not limited to the totalitarian regime and the clergy but to the rest of us as well for we have moved on with our lives with deafening callousness instead of lending a voice to their perennial predicament albeit in a world that heeds only the power be and the affluent.
In a true sense, Keshi Fitsum and Keshi Tekle-Ab have opted to carry the cross of Christ and live in His spirit to the finish line—as St. Paul used running in a race as a metaphor to his Christian journey—-but equally took up a profession to tend the physically sick and the mentally not so well as well. The rare calling in life particularly in a poor country like Eritrea where the ratio is 18 physicians per 100,000 residents—-[the ratio is in sub-Sahara Africa] is a boon to say the least but for a reason that defies logic, their tragic story is tantamount to clipping the wing of a newly hatched pigeon when both were taken to the unknown in their prime.
Their theological rigor is equally robust as their medical profession for both have authored several books ranging from the history of the Church to on how to live a Christian life in an otherwise tumultuous world. Moreover, Dr. Keshi Fitsum was well placed to practice Psychiatry in a time when war fatigued combatants transitioned to a civilian life as many found it difficult to adopt as the psychological trauma of a protracted war was taking its toll on the combatants. What’s more, the key component in Psychiatry is establishing a rapport with the patient where language barrier could not have been an issue for Dr. Fitsum and most of the combatants in need of Psychiatric help speak the same language—-Tigrinya as opposed to relying on foreign nationals who are trained in Psychiatry. Sadly, the totalitarian regime and the ultra-Conservative clergy clouded with a tunnel vision and crippled with a dearth of insight went for the kill and condemned the nation and the people to a pitch darkness in spirit and intellect as well.
After surviving three shipwrecks, whipped with 39 lashes, beaten with rocks, St. Paul said, he could do all things through Christ and equally King David draws strength in a time of want when he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Those powerful words that have comforted saints and believers for generations equally comfort both Keshi Fitsum and Keshi Tekle-Ab and thousands more till the sun breaks on them and a new dawn heralds. It ain’t far.