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Eritrean Government Says Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Retired

ICC Note

Eritrean government officials are denying reports of persecution against Christians whereas reports coming from Eritrean indicate that the Eritrean regime has continued its heavy-handed approach towards Christians in that country.

27th Sept 2007 Eritrea (Release Eritrea) -the government of Eritrea denies accusations of religious persecution in the country. In an interview to the BBC, Ambassador Girma Asmerom, Ambassador to Belgium said that the stories of torture and severe persecution that refugees at Shimelba refugee camp, in Ethiopia, told the BBC were invented ‘simply as a certificate’ to enable them to get political asylum.

Ambassador Girma, who was formerly the Ambassador to the US further stated that Abune Antonios, the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church who was forcefully removed from his position and subjected to house arrest, incommunicado had retired to a monastery in the country. Claiming that the 80-year-old Patriarch is alive and well the ambassador claimed that he was, ‘alive, kicking and praying’.

Meanwhile report from Asmara indicates that things for Eritrean Christians are going from bad to worse and the severe repression shows no sign of abating. The Eritrean authorities’ open antagonism to the US since the recent threats to designate Eritrea as a state sponsor of terror seems to have fuelled anger against the Evangelicals. An email received by the BBC stated that, ‘The situation in Eritrea is getting worse and worse after the president stated that the US is funding the Pentecostal church in Eritrea m any Christians are suffering in military concentrations [camps] and police stations’.

In a related news Release-Eritrea has learnt that Mussie Ezazz an evangelist in Asmara was arrested along with his elderly parents, his wife, Freweyni, and their three children, aged between 6 and 12, last week. The elderly parents who are believed to be in their seventies were released after two days of incarceration, but Mr Ezazz and his family are still missing.

Dr Berhane Asmelash director of Release-Eritrea UK spoke of his anger and concern over the situation, ‘I am extremely angry that the ambassador dismissed such body of evidence as a mere ploy to gain asylum, he perhaps got away with it when he previously, repeatedly said it of people who fled to the US or to Europe but now we are talking about people who fled to Ethiopia, these are desperate young people who are probably going to be stuck in a refugee camp for a good number of years’

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Finally of the arrests and continued repression against Evangelical Christians he said, ‘I am extremely concerned for the Ezazz family and particularly for the young children, the stories of former prisoners have highlighted how difficult these prisons are and I dread to think what these children must be going through’

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