The persecution of Religion in Eritrea by the government is nothing new. The biggest Christian denomination in Eritrea, the Orthodox Church, describes the condition of Christians in the country as “pathetic” and condition of the church as “dying” in a document they published this January titled ‘The Detained Patriarch, Persecuted Christians and a Dying Church’. The Orthodox Church claim their objective for publishing it was to “shed some light into the pathetic conditions of Christians in Eritrea, which requires high volume of international attention and help” . In a 2002 Pastoral letter, the Catholic Bishops of Eritrea, the second biggest denomination in the country, describe the government’s hostility towards religion in general and Christianity in particular as nothing but intentional: “The principles of faith and fear of the Lord, the real foundation of our culture, have been painted over [by government] intentionally.” The Bishops talk of worrying conditions the Eritrean legal and justice system is in: “In our courts and legal system this malaise is even more evident. There is an avalanche of complaint.” the letter continues to say, “[the government’s] excuse of the lack of properly prepared personnel wears rather thin after ten years with little visible progress having been made.” In Eritrea 2,000-3,000 Christians are imprisoned without trial or charge. “Christians are seen as a threat and unpatriotic because their highest allegiance is to God” the Christian Solidarity Worldwide explains.
The government goes to great length to make sure that this fact does not come to light in the international community. I ask everyone to please sign this petition along with honest prayer that this will not be just another petition, but that will trouble the hearts of its readers to do something about it. God bless.
Free Eriasks the EYSC community this morning: “What are the PFDJ’s strengths and how can we overcome them? Please comment.” it reminded me of Delilah’s question to Samson: “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee” (Judges 16:6) and I suspect Free-Eri’s intention for asking isn’t that different from that of Delilah.
Well this is what they call a million dollar question. It always helps to step back and ask basic questions. As expected comments started flowing within the hour, “They are led by a genius” the first commenter started, giving the entire credit to one mans mental power. Probably true but as expected it stroke a lot of nerves, had it not been a very well known EYSC fb person (Sala M’hretu Betsue) who made the comment we would have seen much more hostile comments directed at him following. “They still hold the “independence euphoria” card. They are able to bring the people together by identifying an external existential threat” he continued. Despite the excellent analysis of PFDJ’s strengths, his proposed solutions were rather depressing–a glimpse of what we could do followed by why it won’t work, the main reason being because we are not devoted enough to the cause. About 30 comments followed throughout the day. All well written and with multiple points. I expect discussions will continue well after I am done writing this, but let me rephrase and list strengths and proposed solutions I found interesting. Strengths of PFDJ:
Strong and very organized very centralized leadership
Very efficient and brutal internal security and elaborate surveillance system
Their constituencies are the un-intellegent, for example they can’t differentiate between country and government
They instill the feeling that PFDJ owns Eritrean independence
They have money to spent on defamation, character assassination and intimidation
They are excellent at exploiting the half a century old Ethio-Eritrean hate to their advantage
The weakness of the opposition means their strength isn’t even challenged
Lack of independent civil society in the country (atomization of society)
Money remittance from families abroad, decreases the threshold for people in Eritrea to demand change on the streets
Use Divide and Rule policy specifically the “Awraja issue”
How to defeat them:
unity, unity, unity in the opposition
building various civil society and institutions that have coherent platforms
we should want our freedom more than PFDJ want to stay in power
decrease financial aid to our families in Eritrea
boycott everything that support the regime
educate our people
do not be afraid to openly discuss the problem of regionalism in Eritrea
Well, writing this many comments continue to be posted but I have to end here if I want to get some sleep tonight, I have an early appointment tomorrow and its already well past my bed time.
The Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change, With their bold demands of: (1) DIA must leave office, (2) Free political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and, (3) End the servitude known as the Warsai-Yekalo campaign; have attracted over 12,000 members to their Facebook page, all passionately discussing Eritrea’s past, present and most importantly future. Indeed the EYSC and other similar activist Facebook groups have become the universal place on the internet for many concerned Eritreans.
Facebook has become the site of choice for many activists who do not have the natural options of convening or discussing in their country. But the convenience of Facebook comes at some cost, for example it is hard to keep track of important posts and discussions from the less important ones, furthermore there is no sure way of locating a post for future reference, and no way of archiving. There is also no way for a moderator to refer or link a post to another, so you often end up seeing the same question being asked and same argument ensuing every month by a new member.
An excellent post and discussion can appear and fade away pretty quick in such environment. In light of this, I have decided to hand-pick interesting discussions form Eritrean activist Facebook groups like EYSC’s groups and present a digest.
In Eritrea you can find Mosques which teach that “there is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet” a few blocks away from Churches that teach “no one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ”. The fact that such mutually exclusive religions co-exist peacefully without any compromise speaks of a tolerant society.
Much like the concepts of racial equality or democracy, everybody is for religious tolerance these days. But the term is not well understood among many. It is not uncommon to hear people using the term religious tolerance synonymously with open-minded or liberal. Such use is utterly mistaken. Why would you need ‘tolerance’ if people are not so convinced about their own religion’s correctness? If you are already open minded about religion, or even appreciate the value of having a multi-religious society, then there is no need for tolerance.
A religious tolerant society is when a person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah can respect and befriend a person who is convinced that Jesus is not a Messiah. Tolerance is when a person who believes Muhammad is the Prophet can respect and befriend another who says Muhammad is not a prophet.
Tolerance requires a rejection of the others’ religion and lifestyle while at the same time accepting and accommodating them in society.
Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. -John F. Kennedy
Since religious tolerance, or any kind of tolerance for that matter, does not exist among groups that don’t mind the others’ beliefs or lifestyle. Religious tolerance exists only between people who are fully confident that that their religion is the correct and the others’ is incorrect. When people with such conviction choose not to impose their religion on each other, that is tolerance.
Religious tolerance is the only way to accommodate mutually incompatible faiths and ensure that peace and stability do not come at the expense of freedom and personal rights. Only in a society that respects and tolerates diversity can people truly make the choices they really want.