Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Model Nation for Religious Persecution?

The BBC reported yesterday that 30 elderly women have been arrested in Eritrea while praying together. This report is just the latest in a long series of persecution for adherents of various Protestant Christian denominations, Jehovah Witnesses and other faiths that are not granted an official stamp of approval by the Eritrean regime since 2002.

One of the well known cases of this ongoing persecution is that of gospel singer Helen Berhane
who was tortured and detained without charge for two years before she was released in 2007 and was granted asylum in Denmark. As you can see in the video below, Helen has a difficult time walking as a result of the torture she was subjected to during her incarceration. Obviously, the tortures did not brake her. As is often the case, persecution of religious people never accomplishes its intended objective.

I fail to understand what Isaias Afeworki and his henchmen want to achieve by such inhumane treatment of their own people! Trying to become a model nation for religious persecution? Here is a graphic description of what happens to the Christians and others from an
Eritrean witness who was a prison guard:

I was doing my national service in Sawa Military training during the period 1999- 2001. During the two years period of my stay in Sawa, I witnessed an enormous amount of beating and torture to individuals who happened to be followers of Jehovah's Witness and Pentecostal (commonly known as "Pente") religions. I was, on many occasions, a prison guard to these people. The Jehovas are detained for refusing, according to their faith, to take the military training. But the "Pentes" are usually simply detained for reading bibles, praying in a group, singing gospels etc during the free time, even though they are good soldiers. Once they are detained their head is shaven, like the other criminals in the prison. 20-30 of them are detained in a 3x4 metal-house. They were allowed to go out only for 30 minutes in whole day. The perfect relaxation time for the detainees were when they were taken to load and unloads cement, food etc from trucks. They all prefer this work than to be locked in the container even though it is physically exhausting for them. But the worst time for all of them was during 'questioning' time. They were badly beaten to the
extent that noses are broken, feet bleed. After the beating comes the notorious 'helicopter' torture in which your two legs are tied with your hands on your back. You are thrown in the sun and milk is poured on your body to attract the flies. It was the most inhuman treatment I have ever witnessed

Amanuel, Cape Town, South Africa


Unknown said...

One would think that Eritrea would be freeier and more open nation after independence but apparently that is not the case. It seems “there is no freedom of religion,” “there is no freedom of expression,” and I would add that “they have violated basic human rights.” They claim that the two groups are cult groups and they have a hidden sbversive agenda that could dawn-the-road undermine the sovernity of the nation and the Authority of the government. At least that is what I have heard. I would say they could have had chance, if they didn’t make it a habit comming out with the most controversial and offensive isssus like “We are above the law.” That kind of approch could scare a young nation into action. Remember also that Eritrea is not yet a "democracy." Sure they vote and all but we all now know that the vote is a "jock," a crude jock at the expance of the people but nonthless a jock. why the hell are they voting where no one is running. They should have outright demanded democracy. May The Lord help them.

enset said...

The case of Jehovah Witnesses is different from the Protestant groups that are being persecuted. Jehovah's belief of non-allegiance to an earthly power has pitted them against many covernments, not just Eritrea. But this is not to suggest that there is any justification for their persecution whatsoever.

On the other hand, the Protestant groups are being persecuted for two reasons: 1) a purvasive religious bigotry in the culture and 2)the paranoid level of insecurity that has engulfed the Eritrean ruling junta after their defeat in the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia.

This is a battle the Eritrean regime is certain to loose.