Greeting takes the form of multiple kisses on both cheeks and a plethora of exchanged pleasantries. Any hint of superiority is treated with contempt. Age is a factor in social behavior, and the elderly are treated with the utmost respect. When an elderly person or guest enters a room, it is customary to stand until that person is seated. Dining etiquette is also important. One must always wash the hands before a meal, since all food is eaten with the hands from a communal dish. It is customary for the guest to initiate eating. During a meal, it is proper form to pull injera only from the space directly in front of oneself. Depleted portions are replaced quickly. During meals, participation in conversation is considered polite; complete attention to the meal is thought to be impolite.
Religious Beliefs. There has been religious freedom for centuries in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest sub-Saharan African church, and the first mosque in Africa was built in the Tigre province. Christianity and Islam have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years, and the Christian kings of Ethiopia gave Muhammad refuge during his persecution in southern Arabia, causing the Prophet to declare Ethiopia exempt from Muslim holy wars. It is not uncommon for Christians and Muslims to visit each other’s house of worship to seek health or prosperity.