Church leaders condemn “truly shameful” conditions in Eritrea

June 28, 2014 by admin  
Filed under newsletter-asia

eritreaAfrica, 17 June, 2014: Four senior church leaders in Eritrea have published an open letter criticising conditions in the oppressive African state as “truly shameful and unacceptable”, in a rare and bold move.

Four senior church leaders in Eritrea have published an open letter criticising conditions in the oppressive African state as “truly shameful and unacceptable”, in a rare and bold move.

They describe the country as “desolate” because so many people have fled, are imprisoned or conscripted into the army and lament the fragmentation of the family unit, saying the elderly are left with no one to care for them.

The bishops said Eritreans were leaving for “peaceful countries, to countries of justice, of work, where one expresses himself loudly, a country where one works and earns”.

The letter said, “There is no need for a land of milk and honey if you are already in one.”

Publishing such a letter was extremely courageous in a country that does not tolerate any kind of dissent and is one of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians.

Over 1,000 Christians are thought to be imprisoned in the country’s notoriously harsh detention system; some church leaders have been held for over ten years.

In 2002, the repressive Marxist government of Eritrea required all non-registered religious groups to register or cease their activities, but since then it has refused to grant any new registrations. Only three Christian denominations are officially recognised, and members of unregistered churches are subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention without due process of law.

Christian prisoners may be incarcerated in metal shipping containers with extreme temperature changes, forbidden to pray aloud, sing, preach or have a Bible, and tortured to make them recant their faith. Some have died under torture or because they were denied medical care.

Such intense persecution drives many Christians to flee Eritrea. Compulsory national service for men until the age of 40 prompts an estimated 3,000 to leave every month.

People put themselves in extreme danger trying to escape Eritrea. Many drown trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, while those who seek asylum in Egypt may be arrested and imprisoned. Others fall into the hands of people traffickers as they attempt to cross the deserts of Sinai to get to Israel; the captives are subjected to horrendous abuse, and huge ransom payments are demanded from their families for their release.

- barnabas team

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