Former Ethiopian prime minister speaks on conversion while in Pierre


52e5f3b7904fa.preview-300A former socialist revolutionary who once lived by the motto, “Freedom comes from the barrel of the gun,” endorsed a different creed Friday morning: Faith in God is the foundation of good government.

Tamrat Layne, the prime minister of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995, spoke in Pierre at the 10th Annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast about his conversion from atheist to Christian and socialist Marxist to admirer of American government.

Layne was part of a revolution that started in Ethiopia in the 1970s. What started as a movement of 17 people grew into an army of 150,000 people. He freely admits his band of guerilla fighters were led by Marxists beliefs and were seeking to set up a socialist and atheist system.

“Deep inside I had this heart of freedom and justice, but I was led by an atheist system,” Layne said.

His party won the revolution and he became the prime minister from 1991 until 1995. However, he said that he became disillusioned with socialism and said it “failed” in his country.

temratLayne became a political prisoner in 1996 because of a rivalry with the Ethiopian president and was in prison until released in 2008. While incarcerated he converted to Christianity, saying that Jesus came to him five years after he was imprisoned following a study of different religions and philosophies. He told the audience Friday that those last seven years of his sentence were some of his most beautiful days.

“The prison was horrible, but Jesus was peaceful and hopeful,” he said.

After being released Layne immigrated to the United State through the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia and rejoined his wife and two children, who had moved there in 2003.

After recounting his story, Layne urged unity, saying that Jesus was above denominations and was more about giving everyone a new life.

“And, for your information, Jesus is also above and beyond politics,” he said.

He encouraged legislators to get together and “break bread” to find solutions to whatever problems they are facing. His experience has taught him it’s not political or military prowess that will improve the world.

“What changes the world is the heart. And what changes the heart is Jesus,” he said.

Layne said he admires America’s Founding Fathers and is convinced America became such a powerful country in 200 years because its leaders were devoted to God.

God sees the leaders of nations first, so if the leaders are devoted to him the nation will be blessed, Layne said.

Layne, who now resides in Colorado, has traveled to more than 25 states, some three or four times, in the past five years to speak to churches, universities, legislatures and businesses. He’s also toured in Africa, in the Middle East and occasionally in Asia.