Haile Selassie Christmas Interview with Dr. Oswald Hoffman
December 25, 1968
Question: Your Imperial Majesty, it is a great honour to be permitted to speak with you today and also to have you as a guest on this special Christmas programme which will be broadcast to people all over the world. Your Imperial Majesty, what is it that makes you want to follow Jesus Christ?
H.I.M.: When Jesus Christ was born from Virgin Mary, from that time on He lived an exemplary life, a life which men everywhere must emulate. This life and the faith which He has taught us assures us of salvation, assures us also of harmony and good life upon earth. Because of the exemplary character of the life of Jesus Christ it is necessary that all men do their maximum in their human efforts to see to it that they approximate as much as they can the good example that has been set by HIM.
It’s quite true that there is no perfection in humanity. From time to time we make mistakes. We do commit sins, but even as we do that, deep in our hearts as Christians we know we have a chance of forgiveness from the Almighty. He taught us that all men are equal regardless of sex, their national origin and tribe. And He also taught us all who seek HIM shall find HIM. To live in this healthy life, a Christian life, is what makes me follow Jesus Christ.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, what advice would you give a person who is considering the claims of Christ, perhaps for the first time?
H.I.M.: I would tell a person who was considering the claim of Christ for the first time that it is necessary to have faith in the Almighty, that it is necessary to have love, and that it is necessary to conduct oneself in a manner that we have been taught to do in the Bible.
I would also advise him to seek the secular knowledge, for the more one knows the more he realises the need for a prime mover, the need for a Creator, a Creator who is good, and the need for salvation and also for peaceful life upon earth.
I would also tell him to learn and to think for himself the ways he would serve the Lord. In this thought and in this undertaking of his he will inevitably find the way of serving his fellow men. For his faith would then be manifested by His conduct. If Christians behave in this way, if we dedicate ourselves to this fundamental task, then we will have a peaceful world and will be assured of not transgressing against the will and the Commandments of God.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, are there any incidents in your life which stand in your memory as times when faith in Christ sustained you?
H.I.M.: There are many instances in my life where the belief in The Almighty and the Christian Faith have sustained me, times of troubles and difficulties. No matter what may befall a human being he can always succeed in overcoming it in time if he has the strength of faith and praise to God, for inevitably He comes to the assistance of those that believe in HIM and those that through their work live an exemplary life.
This goes not only for Christians in my view, but for all men. I think God communicates with those that find themselves in misfortune. In particular, when my country Ethiopia was invaded by aliens several years ago I was sustained in that period by my faith in God and in the abiding belief that justice, however it may take time, will ultimately prevail.
If I did not have faith in The Almighty and in His Righteousness and that justice inevitable prevails, then I would have lost hope and thus the interests of my country would have been ignored. Because I attempted to maintain my faith in HIM and because all Ethiopians maintained their faith in the ultimate goodness of the world and in the grand design that The Almighty has for all men in the world, we were able to victoriously re-enter our country and rid ourselves of evil forces.
If I did not have in my heart the love of God I don’t think I would have acted in a manner that I did. The love of God brings a sense of religiousness in a human being, it gives him comfort for the future and assurance that right cause will ultimately prevail.
Dr. Hoffmann: His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie The First ascended the throne of Ethiopia in November in the year 1930. Now, in the year 1968, Haile Selassie has been in the forefront in mediating the crisis in Biafra. Some of the intervening years have been stormy ones. But there are few Statesmen who can retrace a career of more resolute leadership in both internal and world affairs. Few can claim greater unbroken continuity with the past that nevertheless moves methodically into the twentieth century. At the same time, few have seen more anguish and defeat than Haile Selassie, of whom biographer Leonard Mosley has written in projected epitaph, He shaped, rather than waited upon events.
Just seven months after He became Emperor in 1930, He gave the people of Ethiopia their first written Constitution. His plea before the League of Nations in 1936 as His country was ravaged by Mussolini’s armies, and His anguished exile during the following years, are etched in the memory of the world. When He regained His throne in 1941, His refusal to allow retaliation against the defeated invader was viewed with disbelief.
“One this day,” He said, ” I owe thanks unutterable by the mouth of man to the living God who has enabled me to be present among you. Today is the beginning of a new era in the history of Ethiopia. Since this is so, do not reward evil for evil.. do not commit any act of cruelty like those which the enemy committed against us up to this present time.
Dr. Hoffmann: When the United Nations Charter was drawn up after World War II His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie was one of its original drafters. In 1963, He established the Organization of African Unity, to encourage co-operation among African States and co-ordinate their efforts to build a better life for the people of all Africa.
Constitutional reforms in 1956 guaranteed all the rights of the people of Ethiopia, though the Emperor retains much personal power in governing His agricultural nation of 22 million people, all the time seeking to lead His nation toward a fully modern way of life.
At 76 years of age, His Imperial Majesty continues to work a twenty hour day, with three hours for sleep and one devoted to prayer. Emperor Haile Selassie and I talked about many things on that day during the rainy season.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, how does it seem to you the Apostle Paul meant by the statement, Faith works by love?
H.I.M.:What St. Paul said here is not a mistaken statement. You all know what St. Paul was and what kind of work he was engaged in before his conversion. Later on, after his conversion he had faith and love, and if he had not had that he would not have taught people this in his epistles. Neither love nor faith are separable from each other.
An elaboration of this is Paul’s exposition in one of his Epistles which speak of love and faith. Without love all of our human efforts in the sight of God can be useless. He loved us and on our behalf He was given as a ransom, and it was because of love and His love for us that He accomplished the act of love.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, as a member of the Body of Christ, what do you expect of the Church?
H.I.M.: The Church is not merely a building. The Church is the faithful fulfilment of the Christian life and its requirements. Thus, as the name applies to the buildings so is our heart The Church in which God dwells.
After our blameless Creator was sent to this world by His Father, then the hearts of all believers become The Temple of God. The love of God cannot be fathomed by a series of questions and answers, and man’s soul cannot experience deeper enrichment as a result. We believe that men at all times be bound by His love and grace.
Dr. Hoffmann:Your Imperial Majesty, as a member of the body of Christ, what do you feel you can contribute to The Church?
H.I.M.: All men are endowed with natural responsibility. This responsibility is in turn distributed and delegated to all according to his gift, and it is expected of each one to fulfil his responsibility. This responsibility in turn is to God and thus for example, and would start his work asking God to bless the beginning and thank God for a good ending too.
We believe that all people in all of their responsibilities delegated to them will begin and finish their work in God’s name. I gave you brief answer. If we go into detail we would have to spend a long time discussing.
Dr. Hoffmann:It is a magnificent answer and I am deeply grateful for it. To turn to another subject, Your Imperial Majesty, are there any passages of the bible that have become especially meaningful to you?
H.I.M.: I have the highest respect for the Bible as a whole. We also recognise the rightful name the Bible bears. We find that in all the periods of the Old Testament, in the time of Patriarchs, Kings, and Prophets, great miracles were done. On the other hand, the time in which Our Lord HIM-self gave the command to go to all the world and to preach is also of high value. Then, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,- the four gospels in which the sayings of our Lord are recorded- are pillars for all men on the earth. Therefore the Bible should not be cut into portions.
Dr. Hoffmann: As a mature Christian, have You a special word for young people of these days?
H.I.M.: On this occasion I address all those within Our Empire. Our Christianity is not restricted to a given church and I stress above all that We do not wish to make distinctions. My advice to all is to fulfil the Ten Commandments. You are aware of the contents of the Ten Commandments and can elaborate on it. If the nation for which I am the Emperor follows and accepts this, since its also what I accept and follow, I would believe our country is not only historically Christian but also actively Christian.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, the birthday of Our Lord is observed by peoples throughout the world in different ways, I know, and I should like to ask You how You observe the feast of the nativity of our Lord within Your own family and household?
H.I.M.: The birth of Our Lord is a joyous family event. However, I do not only rejoice with my kindred and family since the whole Ethiopian nation is my family. I say this in the context of Christmas being observed by all churches in Ethiopia. I rejoice on this occasion also because of Jesus Christ being given for us. For He was born in the lowly place and got warmth by animals. This fact encourages us to celebrate it with joy.
When I have visited the five large continents, I have not been anywhere where there was not a church. All over the world I have come to know that the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, as a figure of world importance and probably one of the best known man in the world today, I should like to ask You this question: What meaning can the birth of Christ have for the nations of the world today?
H.I.M.: As I said before, the birth of Christ is celebrated all over the world. When I say the whole world it does not mean that all people would observe it in the same manner. In all the places that I have visited, including the Muslims and the Buddhists, We have seen the observance. But for Christians it is an act conducted with love.
Dr. Hoffmann: Your Imperial Majesty, You have done us great honour and also all the people who will listen to this broadcast by giving us the opportunity to speak with You this day. And all those who are listening should know that this conversation was held in the Imperial Palace at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, and we thank You and wish you God’s blessing in all the days to come.
H.I.M.: Thank you.