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Unfiltered Notes: Are we losing the deeper message of Eritrea’s courageous Catholic Bishops?

Unfiltered Notes: Are we losing the deeper message of Eritrea’s courageous Catholic Bishops? By Tewelde Stephanos, June 14, 2014                    Email:   Many have commented on the exemplary moral leadership of the four Catholic Bishops articulated in the

Unfiltered Notes: Are we losing the deeper message of Eritrea’s courageous Catholic Bishops?

By Tewelde Stephanos, June 14, 2014                    Email:


Many have commented on the exemplary moral leadership of the four Catholic Bishops articulated in the now famous document titled “Where is Your Brother?” 1,2.  Such courageous moral stand is truly uplifting anytime but especially so at this moment of Eritrea’s grim reality.


But I worry if we are losing the deeper lesson of the good Bishops already. Some of us are concluding as if the message only applies to the regime and its supporters. Yes, the lawless regime makes Italy’s apartheid era look good by comparison. The wanton plundering of Eritrea’s material and humanresources and Isaias saying “no one gave me a contract” to create the oppressive and corrupt regime leaves no doubt he is the worst enemy the country has.


That is not the whole story, however. Could a one-man empire last this long if we had heeded the Bishops’ deeper lesson? Did we honestly stick with the spirit of their question – “where is my brother”? What was our response when the disabled veterans were mercilessly mowed down or when so many people were herded to prison, some never to be heard from again? Except for very few brave souls, like our Catholic Bishops, we have all failed to do the right thing and that is why the regime has thrived this long.


Let’s start with the most contentious. In 1991, Eritrea’s tegadelti were given boundless respect and admiration. Then tegadalai Bitwoded Abreha was jailed without due process of the law and thetegadelti did nothing to help his mother who, as the word of mouth reporting goes, was knocking on all doors to gain her son’s freedom. Because the tegadelti stopped asking “where is my brother” things only got worse from there. Then came the jailing of Muslim teachers in Keren, the massacre of the disabled veterans in Mai Habar; followed by one horrendous crime after another. And what did thetegadelti do? Nothing. Even the top leaders who ignored the pleas of Bitwoded’s mother have disappeared without a trace since. And because they did nothing, even tegadelti’s children are fleeing Eritrea confirming what they (the tegadelti) let happen has made Eritrea unfit for their own children. While all this mess is unfolding, Eritrean society wrongly took the back seat assuming the tegadeltiare there to safeguard freedom only to find out freedom cannot survive unless it is guarded by all. As the tegadelti abandoned the spirit of freedom and justice they supposedly fought for, ordinary citizens (derisively referred to as gebar by tegadelti) also willingly accepted a second class citizenship role. And it all went downhill from there.


How about diaspora Eritreans and Eritrea’s so-called educated class who enjoy full personal freedoms provided by our host countries? Did we wish the same freedoms for our brothers and sisters inside Eritrea or try to speak truth to power? Not even close. The vast majority of us kept quiet (even as the regime closed the only University in the country), and the voices of few brave ones were continuously drowned out in favor of a corrupt regime that is still in power. The irony of ironies: we even mis-used the freedom of expression allowed in our host countries to demonstrate in favor of a regime that kills people demanding those very rights.


How about religious leadership? Except for the consistent and united moral leadership of the Catholic Bishops – both now and in 2001, there is not much to speak of here either. The Protestant Church has been extremely quiet; and one dares say complacent The Orthodox Church is severely divided and cleverly manipulated by the atheist regime. It can’t even rally in a united way to free the ailing Patriarch who was demoted by the regime and replaced by immoral “leaders” who continue to turn a blind eye as the regime brutalizes their brothers. The role of the Mosque is not that better. Forgetting they are our brothers and sisters, we have been dormant or complacent as the regime viciously attacked members of the smaller faith groups.


Predictably, the regime and its supporters have started playing the same old song that the Catholic Bishops were funded by Eritrea’s enemies. Of course it is a bankrupt argument because Eritrea’s enemies did not massacre the disabled veterans, closed the only University, nor convert Eritrea into a despotic state. We did. But let’s assume for a moment that an enemy did fund the Bishops to write the deep, thoughtful and caring document. A document that is full of practical advice on how to solve our problems, a document that awakens the soul to do the right thing, a document that arouses sympathy for a mistreated brother or sister. A document that appeals to our sensibilities to never do what we did to Bitwoded’s mother ever again. If there are enemies like that who help you accomplish such noble causes, I, for one, want as many of those enemies as I can find. I am sure many also feel the same way.


But let’s go back to the bigger picture. Segment it anyway we want – by gender, by age group, by religion etc., our collective behavior has not been that good. After all, the hated regime is still there doing what it does best – promoting backwardness, poverty, ignorance and destruction.

Collectively, we are all equally bad for letting things get this ugly. No group can claim virtue over any other. But now is our opportunity to right this wrong, to rise from the ashes, to heed the Catholic Bishops’ message to never stop asking “where is my brother?” again. Because as the saying goes, if I don’t stand up when they take away my brother, there won’t be anyone left when they come for me. This regime will surely go.  And good riddance! what a moment that will be. What we will allow to replace it, is the real test awaiting us. Are we now getting the deeper lesson outlined by the good Bishops? Are we going to allow another mother’s heart to be broken like what let happen to Bitwoded’s mother and the countless mothers like her?


I feel nothing but gratitude for the stand the Catholic Bishops took. And for that, I say, I am a Catholic today.,  June 6, 2014

Review overview
  • yonas June 15, 2014

    silent on:i can call u only adgi,an don’t differenciate good from evil.the destruction of our country and youth is nothing for you.let God give you what you deserve.

  • Jemal June 15, 2014

    Time to remove HGDEF by hook or by crook. We can not stand them any more in Eritrea. We need our land back. All religious leaders should unite. We have to unite against Eritrean people enemy.
    God bless Eritrea.

    • Abduselam June 15, 2014


      Anta adgi entay afletuka kayou bezaba polotics shenka segidka zaytedekis haraee.

      • ahmed saleh June 15, 2014

        Well said , we can’t afford fragile
        society anymore .
        And ignore the stupid remarks no need to respond . He has s purpose
        to divert the needed attention .

      • abdu June 15, 2014

        Ana halay neskaka Beray tehrad; sukelkageda ab north america tahabica geda dekika zaytebi kab bedhri computer tahabica halowlow tebl. Hiji manyou halay anta kebti.

      • Mehari T. Teklay June 15, 2014

        Bhaki anbessa wedi anbessa, you’ve said it rightly & beautifully. Tell them the truth and if they don’t swallow it then just give them more of the same medication until they swallow the bitter pill with force. You also forget to add ‘maAkorika tehatsibka’…..

        • Hagherawi June 15, 2014

          “You also forget to add ‘maAkorika tehatsibka’…..”

          Mehari T. Teklay aka Bokre, Paradiso

          Shame on you !!

  • Merhawi June 15, 2014

    Hgdefawian are dead long time ago,but we are disUnited against them,, the Only way HGDF Could survive is By disUnite Us.

    • Sorobeti June 15, 2014


      As you have said PFDj is dead long time ago, but they desperately are trying to reincarnate it in Italy.

  • semere June 15, 2014

    Thank you for the challenge you posed on each of us. As you rightly concluded, the message of the Catholic Bishops is not only for the regime. In one way or the other all of us are culprits. We allowed the regime for too long to trample on us without a significant resistance or opposition. At the beginning we were too naïve; and by the time we understood the true nature of the dictator the damage was beyond repair. In any case, we have to act. It is never late. We have to create awareness, because many still supporting the regime for selfish reasons knowing the destruction it caused to the nation. For myself I distributed 300 copies of the letter of the Catholic Bishops. The second phase will be to support openly the Catholic Bishops either through collective letters or demonstrations wherever we are. I am sure Assenna will help us to post those letters.

  • Wedi meret June 15, 2014

    Hi all!
    The 4 heroes are not only they are doing their mission but they stood by Orthotodox church.
    By definition they are telling us to suppirt the righteous.
    Yehgdef want to devide the religion which they have lived and worshiped side by side for generation and here we go Isayas Afewerki came from somewhere unknown destination trying to divide us by means of some dogs barking on the serving the truth tv!!!! It is not going to happen.
    He can go to hell

  • Dani June 15, 2014

    Hatew ketew kkk

  • qelchama June 15, 2014

    ህገደፍ አንተርፊ ካብ ዉሻጥኡ ኪኣስር አምበር
    ጸላኢ ካብ ደገ ኣይረኣናሉን ተጋደልቲ ከም ጽላአቲ
    ክአሰሩ ሕዝቢ ከም ጸላኢ መንቅሳቀሲ
    ክሕተት አዚ ድዩ ኔሩ ደበስ ሕዝብና

    • Sala June 15, 2014

      ይገርም እዩ..ብሕልፊ’ቲ ህዝቢ፡ ድሩዝ ዓይነት እዩ…መጥይዝካ ሒዝካ ሃርባ፡ ገዛኻ ተዓጺኻ ዘረባ፡ ባራት ኣቲኻ ሻርባ፡ ምስ ህግደፍ ጋሕባ፡ ዘይወዓልካዮ ኩናት ብጥሩምባ፡ ፓልቶክ ኮይንካ ዕንባባ፡ ፌስቡክ ዕሪድካ ታባ፡ ዌልፌር ሓዚሉካ ባባ፡ መኦኣኮርካ ብኾፍ ኮይኑ ዱባ፡ ሓጺር ኢዱ ዘይብልካ ጁባ፡ እርጋን ይቕይሮ ገጽካ ናብ ትሪባ፡ ሽኮር ትመጽእ ከብዲ ተተርቢባ፡ ከረፍ ትብል ንሬሳ ኣጹኡልና’ባ

  • rezen June 15, 2014

    Dear Tesfalidet,
    You are ANGRY – deliciously too! I love it. What a beautiful and daring article: clear, unambiguous, courageous, to the point and cuts the flesh so deep only insensitive person would be immune of its message.

    I love the clear treatment of the message which starts by “How about” and goes on with a string of this, that, and beyond that, after that,etc and hammers by unambiguous two words >>> “WE DID IT”!. And to make sure no one misunderstand the message the following words will continue to haunt sensitive Eritreans >>> “we continue to turn a blind eye …..Collectively, we are all equally bad for letting things get this ugly” .

    Bravo! Sensitive person cannot help but squirm on his seat – and that is GOOD. Eritrea MUST squirm on its seat for collective silence which amounts to historical CRIME.
    Some commentators ask (and they have absolute freedom to do so) about individuals action [“what did you do”]. I believe the question misses the cardinal point i.e. to establish a firm, unshakable foundation for future action. Without this understanding[foundation] and a full acceptance of the shameful silence of the past there cannot be any future course of action.
    Well done , Tesfalidet.

  • Wedi Selam June 15, 2014

    To mention two of many responsibilities and role of a bishop
    To Teach
    A bishop is the principal teacher in his diocese and has a responsibility to preach the Word of God to his people as well as ensuring that God laws are observed.

    To Govern
    This refers to meeting the needs of the local community (material, social, personal and spiritual)
    Based on these simple examples they cannot be seated and watch while the entire population perish, it is against God’s law. The culture of the people is completely destroyed, on their eye. They saw thousands of young Eritreans slaughtered as an animal to take their organs. The people who are actively involved on these despicable crimes some of them are based from Eritrea and the money asked to free the victim were delivered at inside Eritrea. On their Back door they saw thousands of Eritrean Perished on prison without any crime. On their eye, they saw exudes of Eritreans to exile. On their witness they observed hundreds of Eritreans died on the deserts and on the sea and ocean. While the fact is these, the regime reiterated that the country is going the correct way. This time 99% of people is against the regime.
    If we see those groups supporting the regime, see their background either they never involved on the past struggle from contributing money to different contribution or no have family member on Eritrea. Also those go frequently to Eritrea. Who fights the regime these times? 99% of X- fighters are against the regime.
    The mater of the fact is those who supporting the regime are equally responsible with the crime makers tomorrow is not far.

  • Jemal June 15, 2014

    Halay Mukanka tifilet. Anjal!!!!!