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Another Eritrean Priest Forced Into Hiding

ICC Note

Eritrean officials are persecuting Eritrean Christians who live outside of their country.

01/11/2010 Eritrea (In Chains For Christ)-One of the main activities of Eritrean Embassies everywhere has been to bring all the Eritrean Orthodox Churches in Diaspora under the total control of the government. The embassies do this through intimidation and sowing seeds of discord and division. The known instruments of this nefarious campaign have been local members of the ruling party in Eritrea (PFDJ), in cooperation with embassy officials.

One of the many churches that have been the target of such a relentless campaign has been Kidane Mehret [tr. Covenant of Mercy] Eritrean Orthodox Church in Nairobi , Kenya . It is to be remembered that two years ago the former priest there, Fr. Hadgu W. Haimanot, was forced out of his church for opposing the unwarranted interference in church affairs by the Eritrean Embassy in Nairobi . When his life was threatened, Fr. Hadgu had taken refuge at the UNHCR in Nairobi , eventually being settled in the US . Four years ago, there was another priest in the Sudan , Fr. Ghebreberhan Fesseha, who escaped assassination attempt by agents of the regime.

The latest victim is Fr. Berhane Haileab, an erstwhile supporter of the regime. He was brought from Asmara to replace Fr. Hadgu nearly two years ago. Since he took his post, this priest has run into the same trouble with the Embassy as his predecessor, reportedly for taking a similar stand.

Yoftahe Dimetros, the political appointee who has been running the Eritrean Orthodox Church as a mere department of the repressive regime over the past eight years, was brought to Kenya in mid-December to force Fr. Berhane to obey orders from the embassy. When the priest stood his ground, Yoftahe handed him a letter ordering the priest to present himself in Asmara , Eritrea by December 24, 2009. Fr. Berhane still refused, putting Yoftahe’s own legitimacy and authority over the Eritrean Orthodox Church into question.

On January 3, 2010, at the behest of the Eritrean Embassy in Nairobi , members of the ruling party in Eritrea broke into Fr. Berhane’s residence and took away all his belongings. After having been barred from entering the church building and with threats on his life, Fr. Berhane Haileab has since gone into hiding in Nairobi . ICFC has learned that he has requested and has been granted protection from the UNHCR in Nairobi .

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