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Christian organizations petition against persecution

March 8, 2006

By Andnetwork .com

For the full article go to: http://www.andnetwork.com/app?service=direct/1/Home/$StorySummary$0.$DirectLink$2&sp=l22543

A multi-agency petition has been launched by a host of Christian organizations protesting against the widespread religious repression in Eritrea .

The petition, which is supported by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Open Doors and Release International, is to be handed to the Eritrean Ambassador to the UK , Negasse Sengal.

The move has come about in reaction to a decree that was issued in May 2002 that outlawed all Christian activity in the country that did not take place in an Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic church.

After this decree, thousands of arrests were made across the country and it is currently estimated that approximately 1,700 Eritrean Christians are being held in jails because of their religious beliefs.

It has also been revealed that despite the decree, even the officially authorized churches have received great persecutions. Three Orthodox priests (Dr Futsum Gebrenegus, Dr Tekeleab and Rev Gebremebhin) are currently still in prison after being arrested in November 2004.

Also in January 2006, Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios was forced out of office and placed under house arrest after he had spoken out against the Eritrean government’s interference in church issues.

“The fact that the Eritrean government denies the existence of religious persecution in their country is one of the main reasons for this petition. We want the Eritrean authorities to know that Christians in the UK are standing with their imprisoned brothers and sisters in Christ, and we urge every person to sign this petition prayerfully.

“This is both a human rights issue and a spiritual issue, and our actions need to be backed up with prayer.”

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: “The persecution of the Church in Eritrea has increased dramatically over the last few years. Well over a thousand Christians are now in prison there simply for refusing to abandon their faith.

“This petition is part of a concerted campaign to raise religious freedom issues with the government, and we would encourage all those who support religious freedom to sign it.”

Colin King , UK Director of Release International said: “Imagine being crammed into a steel shipping container without light or sanitation – roasted by day, frozen by night in the African desert. It’s beyond our imagination.

But for some Christians in Eritrea this is their reality – to be locked away and tortured just for praying and reading their Bibles. Let’s stand together with our brothers and sisters. They must not go through this alone.”