Eritrea accused of staging false apology from imprisoned patriarch

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Reports that the imprisoned Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church has been released from house arrest following an apology have been denied by supporters.

His Holiness Abune Antonios was arrested in January 2006 and deprived of his office by his Church’s synod in what the other Oriental Orthodox Churches regard as a violation of ecclesiastical law. He had resisted the Eritrean government’s increasing encroachment into Church affairs and its persecution of believers, which has seen the country repeatedly condemned by human rights organisations.

Oriental Orthodox Pope Shenouda refused to recognise his government-appointed successor Dioskoros, who died last year. Antonios himself is in his eighties and suffers from severe diabetes.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Eritrean Orthodox Church website published pictures of Antonios in a meeting with a delegation of monks on August 8, scholars and government officials. It also published a letter on headed notepaper saying he had apologised for any wrongs he had done. However, many observers believe the story has been concocted by government and Church authorities anxious to bring to a close an issue that has been a long-running embarrassment to both of them.

CSW sources have said the the delegation had initially visited the patriarch on August 5, ostensibly to apologise for their part in his illegal removal and to begin the process of reconciliation. The Patriarch was subsequently transported to the Patriarchate in Asmara on August 8 for further discussions, and the pictures were taken at that time.

The Diaspora Archdiocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (North America, Europe and the Middle East) said there had been no confirmation by Antonios himself. It added: “No statement of ‘reconciliation’ can be taken at face value where the venue is not free from any duress and without the participation of a neutral third party. Furthermore, the synod, with the full backing of the government, cannot be the accusing party, the judge, and now the agent to declare ‘reconciliation’.”

CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas said: “While any genuine initiative to reinstate Abune Antonios and reconcile the church would have been warmly welcomed, the information we have received so far suggests this report has been fabricated to deflect criticism of Eritrea’s appalling human rights record by providing an illusion of progress.

“In reality, the continued detention of the legitimate leader of the largest permitted Christian denomination is a clear indication of the government’s obsessive determination to monitor, suppress and control every religious community.

“CSW continues to call for the unconditional release and reinstatement of Abune Antonios. He is a severely diabetic octogenarian and the Eritrean Government must be held accountable for ensuring his safety and access to medication. It is vital that the international community maintains pressure on the regime until every prisoner of conscience is freed without precondition, victims of human rights violations receive redress and those responsible for the grave crimes perpetrated in the country are held to justice.”

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10 COMMENTS
  • Berhe Tensea August 16, 2016

    The Abun has nothing to apologize for. The mafia regime despises Tewahdo followers , and has zero respect to the church as a whole.
    People who keep silent and remain cowards don’t deserve any respect by anyone be it Iseyas or others.
    As long as people tolerate unimaginable torture and abuse will continue to suffer.
    Death to Snake of Kola Tembien.

    • tewoldino August 16, 2016

      You are a chicken coward yourself always looking for cheap name or fame by doing nothing.
      Tell us what you have done in your sad useless life to fight against unimaginable torture, abuse and the suffering of Eritreans apart from meaningless and cheap writings.
      Real men fight on for changes with real ideas, guts, determinations and continuous sacrifices & commitments unlike yours which is just weak meaningless insults and accusations.

      • tewoldino August 16, 2016

        Just empty wishes/insults of ‘death to snake of kola Tembiyen’ ain’t going to get you anywhere. Brave and big men don’t just wish or insult but fight like lions and tigers.

  • tewoldino August 16, 2016

    This barbaric regime of DIA would never arrest the leaders of Catholic church or Muslim leaders because of fear of the Western world and the Arab world. But they know they can get away with any crimes a or brutality against the poor Orthodox churches. Let’s pray for lasting solution and peace from the almighty God.

    • AHMED SALEH !!! August 17, 2016

      You weren’t there to defend when Muslim , Catholic and other religious
      leaders used to be treated unlawfully under HGDF systematic suppression . It is true betrayal , silence and cowardice brought the whole
      society under the mercy of few corrupted government officials .
      God listen only to the prayers of good hearted , righteous and humble people who stand in defense of defenseless weak human beings regardless their race , ethnicity or religion .
      To call Issayas ” snake of KOLA TEMBIEN or KOLA SAHEL” , does it
      matter to make you offended this way ?
      Unless you have identity crisis to get easily agitated for naming particular
      region . Tembien people have nothing to do with an evil person , the same goes with Eritreans including among family member with different kind of characteristics and personality . Bad apples always exist everywhere .
      The new episode from praise AMBESSA NAKFA title to TEMBENAI to belittle him because of frustration from failing our expectation sounds
      childish remarks as far I am concerned .

  • yeakel August 17, 2016

    Tewoldino you started by right comment but you end up as bad as opposite as can be. You started “Just empty wishes/insults of ‘death to snake of kola Tembiyen’ ain’t going to get you anywhere” then you concluded by “Let’s pray for lasting solution and peace from the almighty God”.

    Pray helps you to get strength in your work, but cant solve your problem. If you read in Bible! When Glyat, Golyat didnt die by himself, when everybody started to pray of cowardness, brave David killed their enemy and give them their freedom. Even soul didnt die because they pray. He died during the war. He died after they took action. The same Farao, “”I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced. Therefore I will stretch out my hand and let Egypt suffer strange things I will do there; then he will let you “(2 Exodus 3: 19-20)” All these tells as nothing is going to work if you dont add force. As we all know “action speaks louder than words”. Why do you think most Eritreans are silent? If there was a real patriotic opposition everybody could stand and help, but these cowards oppositions we have are people who waiting for power after the ugly dictator die.

    • AHMED SALEH !!! August 17, 2016

      yeakel
      Our problem is to depend on politicians decide the future . The only time
      we might see patriotic opposition is when a true political movement inside
      the country appeared to take place . People should learn a lesson from their unreserved support and unrealistic dream under one party one man rule of Issayas leadership . To bring democratic government requires
      popular uprising to bring down the government to its knee as we observed
      in many countries . The main actors in charge to bring change reside at center place which is inside Eritrea . But I guess the potential of political and civic parties in diaspora will play a big role to investigate , identify & find solution for HGDF unaccountable broken governance system in near future .

  • AHMED SALEH !!! August 17, 2016

    By the way how come anytime ASSENNA highlights the case of imprisoned Patriarch
    of Tewahdo church it drew very few commentators responses .
    I can’t figure out why the silence but I know it is unfortunately weird reaction from same
    church followers ,

  • Diacon Haile Michael August 19, 2016

    let me tell you politicians.
    This church has her own way how to run the church. Some ,so called priest ,brought the church internal issue to media. And they publicly undermine the church fathers and synods leadership.
    according to our faith even if we have an issues ,there is spiritual way to solve it. BY Any means the politician who are in the left or the right should not interfere in the internal affair of the church .
    The group of excommunicated priest who are 10 in numbers are the one who want to make the issue political.This is because they have long time vision to split the church and get followers.
    If they are really stand for the church and her children They might bring as many people as they can to the church by preaching word of GOD. You can see if you find sing youth in the church served by this ex priests.

    We pray for the peace and unity of the church and the country .

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