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The Eritrean Orthodox Church: the Church that Suffers Silently PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 October 2011 20:13

Reports from inside the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) in Asmara reveal the alarming degree to which the country’s oldest institution has been subjected to in one of the world’s most repressive countries. The relentless persecution on religion in general, which has been underway in the reclusive nation in northeast Africa for nearly a decade now, is reaching a critical point for the EOC. According to a report posted on www.tewahdo.org, a website of the EOC’s North America Archdiocese, the regime’s campaign to destroy the only remaining institution that has presence and define life in every Christian village and beyond has reached a dangerous point. The report, citing reliable sources from within the office of Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros – the regime’s point man who has presided over the systematic dismantling of the Church from the beginning of the campaign – has sent a shockwave throughout the Orthodox community abroad.

In the five years alone, since the forcible removal and imprisonment of His Holiness Abune Antonios, the Patriarch of the EOC, the report reveals that 1700 clergy of all ranks have been forced out of the church in one form or another. Twenty three known clergymen remain imprisoned in undisclosed location, some since November 20004. These represent some of the most highly educated segment of the clergy. Fourteen other priests are banned from setting foot inside the compound of any church.  There are seven priests who are restricted from leaving the city of Asmara. The report further states that the overwhelming majority of the 1700 clergy are forced to flee the country because of the relentless persecution against them and the church. Those who have fled include 49 workers from inside the offices of the Patriarchate and the various Dioceses, 32 monks from various monasteries and 5 nuns.

Just as devastating to the EOC has been the additional large number of priests and deacons, representing the younger generation clergy, who have been forcibly conscripted into the army under the guise, euphemistically known as “national service”.  The report states that the number for these has reached 1350. The infamous directive that was put out by the government on July 4, 2005 that forced such a large number of the clergy into the army, a reversal of centuries-old tradition and against all church canons, is, according to the report, a deliberate attempt at destroying the church by denying her the service of the segment of the clergy who represented future leaders of the church.

The total number of the clergy who have been put out of commission through imprisonment, proscription, exile and forcible conscription into the army has reached 3050. In a country with a population of only 4 million, it is not hard to imagine the utter devastation the church has already suffered.

It is to be recalled that over 3000 people of all religious background remain imprisoned in Eritrea’s gulag. Many faith communities have remain shut down with unimaginable brute force. Many of the leaders of these so-called “minority churches” also languish in prison.

ICFC calls on the Eritrean government to stop its savage campaign against the Eritrean Orthodox Church, a faith community that represents nearly half the population of the country, as well as all other religions. It also calls on all humanitarian organizations and governments to take concrete steps to ameliorate the repression of the rights of a people by their own government on such an alarming scale.


ICFC is the website of SACS, a human rights and charitable organization dedicated to advocating for religious freedom in Eritrea

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