|Religious Persecution In Eritrea|
|Wednesday, 19 October 2011 22:44|
Christianity came to present day Eritrea and Ethiopia during the first half of the 4th century through the missionary work of St. Frumentius, who was later ordained a diocesan bishop by St. Athanatius, the Patriarch of Alexandria and the defender of orthodoxy, and was sent back to Eritrea and Ethiopia to continue the work he had began. In the subsequent couple of centuries, a period known as the second evangelization of the region, Christianity struck deeper root as it spread among the inhabitants. Today, nearly 1700 years later, half the populations of Eritrea and Ethiopia are Christians.
The Christian church of Eritrea, however, is going through one of the most trying periods of its 1700-year existence. Since May 2002 the government of Eritrea has unleashed a severe persecution of Christians. All evangelical churches were ordered closed. Most of their leaders have since been thrown in secret prisons, never to be heard from or seen by anyone. Over 3200 Christians have also been imprisoned, and the number continues to grow.
Although the four principal religious groups - the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church and Islam - were not included in the original decree of 2002 that banned all other faiths, they have not been spared either.
The government of Eritrea has for all intents and purposes taken over the country’s largest and most ancient religious institution, namely, the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Its patriarch, His Holiness Abune Antonios, was dethroned in 2005 by the government and has been placed under severe house arrest since the end of 2005 for opposing the government’s interference in the affairs of the church as well as the banning of other religions. The government of Eritrea has also thrown many of the leading clergies and laymen of the Orthodox Church in prison.
The US Department of State has repeatedly designated Eritrea as one of the eight countries of Particular Concern for its notorious record of religious persecution.