Vigil Held for Eritrea's Persecuted Believers

A vigil was held outside the Eritrean Embassy in London this week in protest of religious persecution and human rights abuses taking place in Eritrea.

Seventy demonstrators came together on Tuesday from the British Orthodox Church, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Church in Chains Ireland, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Release International and Open Doors to protest against the persecution of minority believers in the east African country.

Eritrea only permits people to adhere to the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Islamic faiths. Authorities arrest, imprison and in some cases torture members that belong to unregistered "illegal" evangelical churches. The government is highly suspicious of newer Christian movements such as the evangelical and Pentecostal ones and frequently harasses their followers.

Tuesday's vigil was held to mark the eighth year of the closure of minority churches in Eritrea and the harassment of Christians from other denominations.

Abba Seraphim, the Metropolitan of Glastonbury; the Rt. Rev Christopher Chessun, Anglican Bishop of Woolwich; and Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea presented a petition to the Eritrean Ambassador appealing "for swift and positive action to ensure the release of all prisoners of conscience and to grant full religious freedom, as guaranteed under Eritrea's commendable Constitution."

Commenting on the vigil, CSW's team leader for Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr. Khataza Gondwe said: "It was a privilege to stand in solidarity with the Eritrean people, and we pledge to continue to do so until the situation in that country irrevocably improves, and all of Eritrea's citizens can enjoy the rights and freedoms enshrined in the nation's constitution."

Daniel Malyon from the BOC (Portsmouth) commented: "This event happens yearly in London, and though it has not ended the persecutions in Eritrea, I feel that it is a moral duty to continue to stand beside the people of Eritrea."

Also noting the importance of standing in solidarity with persecuted believers, David Turner, national coordinator of Church in Chains Ireland, said the event also served as a reminder "that just as the Berlin Wall fell and the evil of apartheid came to an end so a day of justice will come for the people of Eritrea."

Andy Dipper, CEO of Release International, said the organizations would continue to raise the issue of persecution before the government representatives of Eritrea and foreign investors into the country.

"We need to keep on praying for justice and freedom in Eritrea also," he said.