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Eritrea Conceals Religious Freedom Violations from US Congressman

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address Contact Darara Gubo, Regional Manager for Africa, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441,

(January 29, 2008) The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Eritrean security agents removed Patriarch Abune Antonios from the house in which he has been kept under house arrest and moved him to an undisclosed location in order to ensure that a visiting delegation led by Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ) would not have any access to the Patriarch during his recent visit to Eritrea.

Ten days after Congressman Payne left the country, the Patriarch was returned to his residence. His Holiness Abune Antonios, the deposed prelate of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, has been under strict house arrest since the government of Eritrea orchestrated his removal from office in 2005. He was replaced by a government-appointed Patriarch after opposing the government’s interference in the affairs of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.

A member of the Congressional delegation stated in an interview he gave to ICC that the delegation “met with religious leaders in Eritrea to discuss a wide range of issues, including freedom of religion in Eritrea. All the leaders we met told us that there is freedom of religion in the country and that Muslims and Christians co-existed peacefully for centuries.”

ICC’s sources report that the Patriarch’s house arrest has become much more stringent since his return. Anyone who comes to his compound for any reason has to be accompanied by security agents. A sentry is placed outside of the house 24 hours a day. The Patriarch seldom receives visitors, even relatives, and has no telephone service. In addition, the 80-year-old Patriarch suffers from diabetes and the government of Eritrea has denied him medical attention.

Furthermore, the Eritrean government has imprisoned more than 2,000 Christians, including Patriarch Antonios. Some of the imprisoned Christians are kept in metal shipping containers and routinely tortured, and as result there have been cases of prisoners who died, lost their sight, and/or were paralyzed. Due to the severity of persecution, many churches have gone underground and many Christians have been forced to flee the country.

ICC’s regional manager for Africa, Darara Gubo, stated, “The Eritrean government should release all Christians who are imprisoned for their faith in Christ and ensure freedom of religion in the country. The international community should exert pressure on the Eritrean government to secure the release of Christians who are imprisoned due to their refusal to renounce their faith in Christ Jesus.”

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ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.