Asmara Eritrea - November 19th 2005
To show my sympathy with
those Eritreans that gave their lives for their country, I start the day
with a visit to Asmara's Martyr's Cemetery, not far from the Italian War
Cemetery and the St. Michael Church. The well tended graves with white
marble stones, some decorated with flowers are divided in four sections:
one for every round of war. One section still empty, as if another round
of war is still expected.
Next to the Martyr's Cemetery
is the Italian Cemetery, well tended as well, with bougainvillea, conifer
trees and marble statues watching over, or mourning the death. A lady
responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery, walks with me, showing me
the elaborate tombs of the former Italian colonizers.
I spend the day walking
through Asmara. Visiting friends and family, enjoying the climate,
Asmara's architecture and its people, inviting me in to watch the interior
of the buildings. Asmara is blessed with many places of worship: Orthodox
(Coptic), Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, even a Synagogue.
Religious and non religious
organisations in the US and EU are repeatedly accusing the Eritrean
authorities of persecutions of members of the Full Gospel, Rema, Hallelujah, Philadelphia
Church, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals, standing up for the rights
of a few hundred co-religionists. I do not doubt the fact that there have
been arrests. But those arrested were punished because they were defying
the Eritrean government, undermining the principles of the State of
Eritrea, and refused to abide by the
Eritrean laws, and not because they were Christians.
Some of these religious groups
regard the government of God, to prevail over and above the government of
Eritrea. And if you combine this fact with the current 'no war, no peace'
situation, with bad neighbor Ethiopia lurking on the border (some groups
use their religion as excuse not to fulfill their national obligations), it should not
be difficult to understand that there is no legal base in Eritrea for a
faith that questions the authority of the Eritrean government, nor for
those who refuse to take up arms on religious grounds.
Besides, please be reminded
that faiths like Full Gospel, Rema, Hallelujah, Philadelphia (!) and Baptist
Church, Jehovah's Witnesses and
Pentecostals were "imported" from the US (the EPLF referred to
them as "imperialist-created new counter-revolutionary faiths"
already in 1977). And the US is not
popular in many parts of the world. The US is considering themselves the
"good guys", but are they really? There is growing doubts. The
Eritreans are smelling a rat when they observe US influences. I cannot
blame them. The US has proven to warship dollars and oil in the first
place, and US shareholder values come before US moral values.
Most convincing examples: the US, the "world's biggest polluter", has rejected the
Kyoto protocol as damaging to its economic interests. The “terrible cost of the war in Iraq” is measured in the lost lives of US soldiers.
1,000 dead American soldiers weight more than 10,000 dead Iraqi children.
Terrorism was sponsored by the US when it was profitable to them, until
terrorism turned against the US, and now has to be eliminated. A US "war
against terrorism", trying to tear out its own sting.
Most Eritreans think the US is pro Ethiopia. It
was the UN, prompted by the US, that denied the right of
self-determination to the Eritrean people in 1950 and ignored these rights
of the Eritrean people in the decades that followed, just like the US
ignores its rights in the last decade. In the last years of the 1961-91
war of independence the EPLF and the civilian population suffered severe
casualties by US-made cluster bombs. US alley Great Britain sold
off her industry and cableway for scrap in the few years they
'administrated' the country.
Eritrea is a small state (4 million) protecting itself against a larger
enemy (80 million) Ethiopia. And therefore specific religious groups cannot be exempted to do their national duties for it would be unfair
to those doing their national military service. Besides it would be open to
abuse, if the Eritrean government would exempt specific religious groups, according to their faith, to take the military
training, or to defend their country in case of a war.
To eliminate possible dangerous groups, the Eritrean government has
forbidden several (non traditional and anti governmental!) religions and
closed its churches, just like the US tried to eliminate communist
influences in the early decennia of the 20th century, and is now giving
Muslims a hard time (Guantànamo and Abu Graib) since Osama Bin Laden is woven into their national
The reason is the same: "state security". Just like US
citizens have to respect US laws and regulations, the Eritreans have to
respect the rules and regulations of their government. There is nothing
barbaric in arresting citizens that don't respect the rules and
It is barbaric to close one's
eyes, remain silent when thousands of people are killed in the
recent (and still lasting!) Eritrean Ethiopian conflict, or by starvation
due to agricultural adversity, worsened by these wars. The US must be
stopped playing games with the lives and destinies of the people of
Eritrea and Ethiopia and the Middle East.
The UN should stop hiding its
head in the sand like the ostrich, and fulfill its legal mandate to
demarcate the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It abandoned the legal
rights of the Eritrean People in 1951 under US pressure. It is abandoning
the legal rights of the Eritrean people in 2005. Under US intrigues,
wanting to dominate the world in a way that it chooses, intervening when
its economic interests are at stake, and closing its eyes for the misbehavior
of its alleys.
So Pentecostals and Jehovah's
Witnesses, members of the Full Gospel, Rema, Hallelujah, Philadelphia and Baptist
Church, please pray for all the victims of barbarism: in Iraq,
the Middle East, the Horn of Africa. For the casualties of the war, those
that survived but are severely handicapped, poor widows with children,
millions on the edge of starvation, and not just for those with a US
identity, or those who were arrested, preaching that the authority of God
prevails to the authority of the Eritrean government (!)
During my visits to Eritrea, I
have seen little evidence of persecutions (actually I saw NO evidence), so
there is a good reason to assume that those who spread the news about
arrests are pro Ethiopian interest groups, fabricating, misguiding or at
least exaggerating facts to manipulate the public to archive their own
specific goals: trying to weaken or eliminate an Eritrean government that
is unwilling to kneel down to Ethiopian and US pressure to accept the process of
unification of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Instead of any evidence of
arrests of Christians, I have seen numerous examples of people affected by the war, that is
still a threat to the region, supported by the winks and nods of the US,
allowing Ethiopia to get away with its refusal to accept the decisions of
the Boundary Commission.
EU / US / UN : Start supporting peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
To live in peace is also a human right! There is 80.000.000 people in East
Africa waiting for this right. May God forgive you for your silence when 100.000 men and women were killed in
the recent rounds of Eritrean - Ethiopian wars!
Pray Jesus will give those affected by the Eritrean Ethiopian wars a sense of His comforting presence. Pray Christians worldwide will plead with God on behalf of their suffering brothers and
sisters in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Pray the Holy Spirit will move to stop
the senseless wars on the Eritrean - Ethiopian border, as well as the
other US military movements and interventions around the world!
Patriots Cemetery - Asmara
Italian Cemetery - Asmara
Grain market & Kidane
Mehret Church - Asmara Eritrea.
Greek Orthodox Church -
Offices and bar - Segeneyti
Street Asmara Eritrea.
Market Square - Asmara
Kulafa Al Rashidin Mosque -
Selam Street Asmara Eritrea.
Nda Marian Coptic Cathedral
- Arbaete Asmara Street Asmara Eritrea.
Theological School - Mariam
GMBI Street Asmara Eritrea.
St. Mary's Catholic
Cathedral - Harnet Avenue Asmara Eritrea.