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Melkamu Negeri

Melkamu Negeri

Oromo Minister & Refugee from Ethiopia

Born: Ethiopia
Heritage: Oromian

Appreciate the equality, the freedom and the peace you have.

Melkamu Negeri

Oromo Minister & Refugee from Ethiopia

My name is Melkamu Negeri. I was born in Ethiopia. I am an Oromo person. I am married and have six children.

My father was a farmer. The whole family farmed. Farming is not the way we think here in the United States. Here it is mechanized and big. In Ethiopia we farm by hand and oxen. My father died when I was young. My older brother and mom raised me and sent me to school. I also have five sisters⎯four of them alive. My older brother sent me to school. There was no one in the house who could farm except for myself. Mother said your brother isn’t here, so you should farm. [I] quit school to start farming.

Before I came to the United States I was serving as a pastor for 19 years, as a parish leader and as youth director. Ethiopia was a communist country for some years. Communists don’t believe in God and persecute religions. They don’t allow children to go to church. If you go to church they put you in prison. I was put in jail because I worked with children.

The reason they tell us is that we should deny God. “ We don’t need God,” they said. “The country doesn’t need God.” Don’t teach the young people. Don’t teach them that God exists and that faith is important.” I said, “No, I have to teach.” I said, “No, I can’t leave my faith.” My church back home was known as Ethiopian Evangelical Church, “Mekane Yesus Church” (where Jesus is). I love this church.

My name was on the list of people the government was looking for, for years, to kill or put in jail. They think some individuals are working against the government if they talk about freedom and equality.

We speak Oromiffa in Ethiopia. It’s the language of the people. “Bilisummaa” means freedom in Oromo.

I came to the United States in October 1995. The way we came was on a DV-95, which means diversity visa. This is a visa given for people from Africa, Asia, and so forth. We won this in the lottery in 1995. I sold my house which I had, and bought my tickets. That paid for the embassy in America and the United States, because you have to pay a lot of expenses. One interview paid 11,000 Ethiopian dollars.

The United States is a home for the whole world⎯for all the people from many parts of the world. Here we are brothers and sisters no matter what religion or which country we came. We are living here as brothers and sisters and really should be appreciated. Elsewhere in other countries this is very hard.

Notation: Download PDF

It’s The Right Time Now

Honoring Melkamu Negeri

It’s The Right Time Now

Where I come from
They put me in jail
Without bail
For the God I love

When I asked them why
They said because
I could not teach
Freedom of speech
To the old and young
It’s the right time now
It’s the right time now
It’s the right time now
It’s the right time now

My father farmed
By hand and ox
We just got by
On the food we grew.
Nothing was bought

In Oromo Land
I took a stand
“Where Jesus Is”
I have a friend
To lend a helping hand
I won the lottery
To the free country
We had one shot
We took the chance
To be all we could be

In America
We have a lot
To do what we want
All you have
Your parents who
Care for you
Through good and bad

To not be free
Imagine that
To pursue
All you dream
That’s where I’m at

(St. Louis Park, Minnesota)

© Larry Long 2005 / BMI