By Candice Stilwell | Staff Writer
After organizing and leading a coup in 1975, Layne became Ethiopia’s prime minister in 1991. He said he served 5 years in this position and was then wrongfully imprisoned. He then spent 12 years in solitary confinement. During this time, he converted from atheism to Christianity and began dutifully reading the Bible.
Layne was eventually released from prison and reunited with his family in the US in 2006. He and his wife founded a nonprofit called Life Center of Ethiopia, which works to serve the orphans and widows of their home country.
Kevin Parker, a visiting instructor in the economics and business department, organized the event after becoming friends with Layne. Parker met Layne while Parker served in the Washington State House of Representatives – a position he held for 8 years.
Parker invited Layne to speak on campus because “he has an amazing story that reflects his faith [and] his humility. Tamrat is a guy who has immense political power and influence but found his contentment when he started his faith.”
Layne said he wants students to hear about his decision to follow Jesus. He said, “I want students to know my transformation from communism to Jesus. This is the most important thing, in my opinion, for Whitworth University and the community as a whole. My story, I believe, is valuable for all people.”
Josh Lawson, a sophomore business management major, said Layne’s story resonated with him. “The biggest thing for me is his thought of forgiveness. I’ve definitely had that struggle with forgiving people. But compared to what he’s been through, it kind of just made me realize that I’m holding on to maybe some super small things that I need to get rid of. The fact that he can forgive his best friend for basically ruining his life is just honestly incredible.”
Parker said it’s important for Whitworth students to come to this event because hearing from people with unique experiences is an important learning opportunity.
Lawson said that “We don’t hear about a lot of things that are going on in other countries. So, to hear someone who was at that kind of level in another country and hear their problems, that awareness and understanding of what’s going on in the world is good”
Chris Knutson, a sophomore business management major, said the ability to hear a former Prime Minister speak was “unique” and “valuable.” He appreciated learning about Layne’s life story and transition to Christianity.
Layne said he was happy to speak to Whitworth, “… especially with this young generation [who] I have this heart and passion to be with. I believe strongly that the United States, and also other nations, are in hands of the young generations. They are the ones who are going to be the leaders… the ones who are going to take this nation to the next level. I want to contribute [to that] through sharing some of the things I know and learned from my own life journey.”