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Eritrean Catholic Bishops Ask: “Where Is Your Brother?”

In a spiritually embellished letter, four Eritrean Catholic bishops issued a letter addressed to the Eritrean people.

In the 38-page letter that the Catholic Bishops from the eparchies of Segeneiti, Asmara, Keren and Barentu wrote, they described the situation in Eritrea and appealed to the faithful to find solutions to the economic crisis, excessive exile, and other limitless predicaments from which Eritreans are suffering and are caused by the “no peace no war” situation prevailing in Eritrea.

The title of the Bishops’ letter, “Where Is Your Brother?” is borrowed from the Holy Bible: it emphasizes sympathy and urges the faithful to find a solution for their problems. The letter was issued on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the independence of Eritrea which was celebrated on May 25, 2014.

The letter bears the signatures of the following bishops:

1. Father Mengsteab Tesfamariam, Eparch of Asmara.
2. Father Tomas Osman, Eparch of Barentu.
3. Father Kidane Yeabio, Eparch of Keren, and
4. Father Feqremariam Hagos, Eparch of Segeneiti.

Citing the Lampedusa tragedy of October 3, 2013, and the fear and terror it created among Eritreans, the letter states, “Since the environment we are in aggravates the situation, instead of finding solutions to prevent similar incidents from being repeated, those of us who made the the disaster facing our children a matter limited to conversation and news are facing a disturbing question that is making us sleepless.”

“Where Is Your Brother?” addresses all major issues facing Eritreans, including the moral and psychological damage inflicted upon the people; the poor educational status of the country; lack of rule of law; weakness of spirituality; economic hardships, and disasters befalling the youth in their attempt to flee the situation at home, and facing great risks on their journey in the deserts and seas. It also raised a multitude of social, spiritual, economic, and legal issues.

The letter also addressed the lack of freedom of speech in Eritrea and said because of that, the youth are fleeing to, “peaceful countries, to countries of justice, of work, where one expresses himself loudly, a country where one works and earns.” Answering a rhetorical question, it explained, “There is no reason to search for a country of honey if you are in one.” It added, “Instead of Eritreans aiming to leave their country, those who are in the Diaspora should have returned….it is not rational to simply ask why our youth are leaving to foreign countries.”

Addressing the importance of the family unit, “Where Is Your brother?” explained, “on top of the crisis of people leaving their country, the family unit is fragmented because members are scattered in [national] service, army, rehabilitation centers, prisons, whereas the aged parents are left with no one to care for them and have been spiritually damaged. And all that combined is making the country desolate.”

The Bishops appealed for human treatment of prisoners and said, “All those who are arrested should first be handled humanely and sympathetically, and then, based on the accusations against them, they should be presented to a court and to resolve their cases, and since any entity that stands for fairness and justice, for true liberation, mainly aspires to be led by a constitutional law, they should pay serious attention to this issue.”

Fourteen years ago, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Eritrea’s Independence Day on May 24, 2001, Abune Zekarias Yohannes, Eparch of Asmara; Abune Lukas Milezi, Eparch of Barentu; and Abune Tesfamariam Bedeho, Eparch of Keren had issued a Pastoral Letter of Eritrean Catholic Bishops entitled, “God Loves This Country.” The message touched on many aspects of Eritrean situation including the Ethio-Eritrean border; the state of the spiritual life of Eritreans, pluralism, election, aids virus and a host of other issues. Awate.com had presented scanned images of the part that deals with reconciliation out of the 39-page message.

Excerpts from “God Loves This Country” of 2001

Reconciliation is not just with the enemy; we must reconcile with ourselves as well. To assess how far our strength can carry us, we must accept that, being human, and while exhibiting traits and behaviors of human beings– strengths and weaknesses, the good and the bad–we should always pursue moderation.

Our society, as well, should carry a deep and broad spirit of reconciliation, forgiveness and unification. All efforts must be pursued to expand reconciliation and harmony to the segments and sectors that have differing views. While being one people and one society, and in order to live up to the concept of “One People, One Heart”, we should abandon the spirit of “us” and “them” and unify all members of our society. Otherwise, “a nation divided cannot stand (nor be fortified).” Lucas 11:17; Mathews 12:25.

1) The 2014 document:
2) Part of the 2001 document

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  • Bbk

    What the bishops told not only to the rigem even to the opponents too.what they told us very much is to listen each other ,to respect each other,and so on . The bishops teach us a lot of things ,but I impressed on the letter how they express what is happening in Eritrea and it’s people inside and abroad. We can express our opinion with out insulting others. I appreciate the letter written based on Eritrea tradition respect humanity
    Bless you our pops
    Bless you Eritreans

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  • sabri

    catholic priest in Australia elaborate the letter of the bishops. You find it here

    http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/tigrinya/highlight/page/id/341878/t/Interview-with-Aba-Simon/

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    Indeed “Where Are Our Brothers?” The moral of the story of Abel and Cain is sometimes interpreted as limitation (self imposed) of God and Cain’s responsibility to muster the resistance to sin. In other words, the moral, from point of view of theology of sin, may not be about the expansion of sin by what happened to Abel. Rather about the God-Cain relationship.

    With the above in mind, although historical commemorations are valid reason to celebrate, what do you think of the Bologna 40 intiative by HGDEF? Barely over six months of the tragedy of Lampedusa, Italy, where the remains over 360 Eritrean victims still kept in vaults, awaiting final resting, the parents of victims still holding out hope that they may get to bid farewell to their young loved one’s, and where Italy has turned the epicenter of the the deaths and tragedies of our people in great numbers, how is that ERITREAN would set off to ITALY for purposes of festivity? God forbid a major disaster of migrant boat happens while these people are there for the dance and festivity, how low can this get. Have supporters of PFDJ completely lost their humanity? Do they not understand it is OK to postpone such events or possibly relocate it out of consideration of how it may all be understood? Is this supposed to serve as “an attack” or “a salvo” against those politically opposed to the regime? Don’t get me wrong, the history of Bologna festival is a valid historical event to commemorate, document and maintain in its own right, however, this sounds a little uncivilized, gosh there are still remains of your people in vaults, awaiting final resting place, only short distance away and people would have no shame????? Help me out here abeiti adi awatyans. Let me leave you with a poem (as an image by Abba Mussie Shishay)

    God asked Cain “Where is your brother Abel?” knowing that Cain failed to restrain himself from sinning! A failure to live up to one’s RESPONSIBILITY. Now, supporters of HGDEF, “Where is your brother?”

    • sabri

      Hailat,
      You raised good point. Haile derue in his last interview with Dan Conell said the revolution is hijacked by higdef. It does indeed. From that period on every single thing achieved by the justice struggle of Eritrea has been hijacked. Higdef use it for its propaganda purpose. The same thing with Bolonga. Bolonga played a vital role during the era of struggle and it is valid to commemorate its 40 years anniversary. However, the coming festivity in Bolonga is a place where higdef and its policy will be praised. Raising the current issue of Eritrea and searching for a solution is the right way to commemorate Bolinga 40. But higdef never will do it. Thus, the words of Dirue applies here too. Bolonga like many good assets of the struggle is hijacked by higdef.

      Regarding Lampedusa. They don’t care. Beabiu eti sewra techewiyu induu.

      Hawka
      Sabri

  • Erre lover

    It is too late ,but it is very very good
    I hope that the others to flow them

  • Thomas

    Work it out sister, awate team is nothing without you around. After all, make an effort to resolve it as you have many readers of your writing. You call everything by its rightful name and we love you for that.

    • Papillon

      ዝኸበርካ ቶማስ ሓወይ,

      You’re too kind. Awate is my second home. My refuge and of course more often my therapy as well amidst the unbearable push and pull strain in the fast lane of life. But most importantly it is an abode where my country men and women discuss ideas, principles and shape up a future in post-tyranny Eritrea. I wouldn’t say Awate is intoxicating but it is addictive and the withdrawal symptoms are more deadly than the former. Hope Disqus will not recognize me as a “foreign” entity and unleash its allergic reaction anymore and restore my former familiar self instead as I could never leave home without Awate as the popular advert has it.

      ሓፍትኻ

  • Papillon

    Dear AT,

    Apparently it is not working for me and of course it is frustrating to say the least. I will have to quite my all time fav website forum—Awate. I will see you all in post-tyranny Eritrea. Thank you.

    ዓወት ንህዝቢ ኤርትራ!!!
    ዕንወት ንፋሺሽታዊ ስርዓት ኢሳያስ!!!
    እግዝኣቢሄር ንሃገርና ይሓልዋ!!!

    • Dear Papillon,
      But you account is working! You posted the above comment only seven minutes ago… and it is working.

      • Papillon

        Dear AT,

        I can only post as a guest and it asks me to wait for moderation-moderating, moreover, I have to type-in my email and pass word every time I try to post a comment. I never had that kind of problem before where I was able to reply and it would be posted right away.

    • Ermias

      Papi, hold your horses there sister. You can’t quit. Haile, please save the day and come out with your quitter mentality lecture you have done here a couple times.

      Papillon, you provide an immense amount of depth and value to the debates here and you are one of the very very few women. You may not believe so but you are shaping a lot of opinions around here. We are talking about the future of our people and our country here and you cannot quite over a simple computer thing that is frustrating you. I would be extremely disappointed if I don’t see you here again and all the respect I had for you would be lost, well maybe. If you are going to quit over something like this, then I have to say bluntly and honestly that you have abandoned your people who are desperately needing our help. Like AT posted the other day, this website is visited by thousands of unique people everyday. I can assure you that very important people read your analysis and opinions and I can dare say some of their decisions is shaped by your inputs and analysis.

      You cannot quit. It would be an utter shame!

      • Papillon

        Ermi ዝኸበርካ ንኡስ ሓወይ,

        Many thanks for those kind words and I am flattered to say the least. Would it be over-board to assume that Disqus could as well be “PFDJ”? A frustrated mind could be pushed to tatter on paranoia. What do I know! I may not belong to your tech-savvy generation but I can get my hands dirty and get-by with at least some of the rudimentary stuff including how to slap-n-flash a picture if need be.

        Haft’kha.

    • Nitricc

      it is very funny, it is working to tell you, it is Not working. Lol
      Pappi why don’t you do the same thing you did to tell AT it is not working.
      Quite? go head try it, you can’t. i will bet you with anything you want; you won’t Quite. you are in for the hook baby. cool down, get away and try it latter.

  • Nitricc

    Hahahah every one meet my baby Rahwa; she is ready to slug it out in a boxing match with me. Here she is in full Ethiopian gear, ready to fight. Where are you, answer my question. lol I am ready.

    http://ethiograph.com/album/albums/v1/10140/2013-11-16_093705.png

    • Nitricc

      hahahha the dude looks funny. Very niceeeeeeee. Take a break have fun. different and enterteining.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo79ZRJoVfc

    • Hope

      Is that you,Nittric!

    • haquda

      Nitricc, your baby Rahwa is dumping you. She moved to is in Love with anther Amiche.

  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Awatistas,

    The letter written by the Catholic Church Bishops has a strong base for the missionary mission. As Gospel preachers and leading fathers, they have obligation to see their own young followers and ask where they are. Here is a message in call of their duty from the Vatican Church. Failing to approve the call means not to fulfill what they are assigned for.

    As the Second Vatican Council made clear, the work of evangelization is not reserved to the clergy or religious, but is the competence of all the Christian faithful, who are called to proclaim the saving love they have experienced in the Lord Jesus (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 6). I appreciate the efforts you have made to create new opportunities for the catechetical formation of the faithful and to reach out to the young, who are at that pivotal time of their lives when they are challenged to deepen their relationship with Christ and his Church, and looking to start families of their own. Confronted by so many challenges in contemporary society, including an increasingly secularized culture and fewer opportunities for dignified work, it is essential that

    wise and committed lay men and women guide young people in discerning the direction of their lives and in securing their future. For a more effective catechetical outreach, it is also important to continue to identify and prepare qualified lay leaders to assist in forming the faithful and thus make present “the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze” (Evangelii Gaudium,169).

    For more details, go through the three page message addressed to the Bishops who did a recent pilgrimage to Vatican Church. http://www.eparchyofkeren.com/topics/Eritrean%20and%20Ethiopian%20Bishops%20Visit%20the%20Pope.pdf

    Hawkum
    Tes

  • sabri

    Selamat Hailat and awatawyan,

    As you previously informed the smear campaign against the brave bishops is continuing at tesfanews (the mouth piece of the regime). We will see if the regime have a gut to arrest the bishops. You know the priests of catholic churches have an obligation to spread the letter of the bishops to their congregation. Here in the country I live they already started to talk in their churches. That will be a great threat to higdef. Hopefully, the civil movement will spread to other section of the society. And we in the diaspora should be united.

    http://www.tesfanews.net/fool-me-twice-shame-on-me-i/

    hawka,

    Sabri

    • haileTG

      Merhaba Sabri,

      Your reading of the situation is spot on in my view. This is pretty complex hot potato for PFDJ. Firstly, consider that one of PFDJ convoluted counter-argument use to be that if the situation in Eritrea were so bad then how come the people in Eritrea (who are said to be oppressed) protest. Well, this letter firmly puts such mischief to end. Unlike the diaspora Orthodox Church, the diaspora Eritrean Catholic church are said to be part of the “silent” opposition. So, their ground is already fertile to receive the seeds of courage from the bishops and would surely grow in confidence. The regime is in extremely weak position to go through open confrontation with the church and the rest of its regional and international bishops’ conference. The typical PFDJ instrument of hushuKshuK would be less likely to work with the vast followers of Catholics or even Kenisha. Due to lack of education and high degree of illiteracy, the hushuKshuK works best with the Orthodox followers. I guarantee you that the PFDJ 03 will start in earnest to propagate what is written in this dirty document they wrote in response to the bishops letter in social occasions as weddings, baptisms, birthdays… starting this weekend. The danger with this is now most Catholics have large number of Kerenites in their ranks. And most of our Kerenite brethren have long waned off PFDJ’s world of lies unlike us Asmarinos. So the HGDEF 03 would end up polarizing Orthodox against Catholic, Asmarino against Kerenino 🙂 and is not like your typical hgdef covert operations of mass misinformation management (mmm).

      Here is a news of the letter and confirms that the bishops’ conference based in Ethiopia is also member of the Awatista family 🙂

      “Ethiopia and Eritrea share a bishops’ conference, based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, and an official at the Ethiopian bishops’ secretariat referred Catholic News Service to a translation of the letter on awate.com.”

      http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/06/12/emigration-has-left-eritrea-desolate-say-bishops/

      Regards

    • Nitricc

      Sebri, At first I rejected their decree simply because it came from religious entity. I simply object the involvement of religion in to politics. It is a dangerous mix. However; I had a few munities to spare and I listened to the Audio Thomas presented and I am 120% in agreement with content. Very much they touch every pressing issue with the outmost delectation and articulation. They call PIA out. They call the greedy Diaspora out for encouraging the youth to flee. They call the greedy parents out for welling to sendoff their children to overseas so, they can benefit. The call the fleeing youth out for not choosing to built their country instead exposing them selves to dangers and death. They call every one out and I am in full agreement with Catholic Bishops. I wish it was inclusive to the rest of religions, specially the Muslims and Orthodox. So, could have added some weight to force the government to act. I think after Dejen’s tragedy, the end of the game is approaching.

      • Tesfabirhan WR

        Dear Nitric,

        Good now to see you turned. I think the soul searching lectures helped you well. Good to see you turn (not a U-turn of course) and be the Justice seeker Eritrean.

        By the way, I am back now after finishing my final semester exam.

        Hawka

        tes

        • Yman M Omar

          Nitric was on his psych meds when he wrote this 🙂 soon or later, he will return to be less complaint.

  • Ermias

    Why is it that the smartest amongst us always find technology mysteriously working against them? Look at Papi, yodita, Haile, Aman, Eyob M., hayat etc have each complained like a baby about disqus being impossible, not user friendly, erratic, you name it. Maybe it’s the older gen. Me and my buddy Nitricc have never complained about this website nor about disqus, I guess it’s like football. Technology is a young man’s game but politics is an old man’s game.

    • haileTG

      gee..Ermi, look @ mine, I know how to change my profile pic too…haha unlike you…you know what my friend Eyoba would say “Lij bi’roT abatun ay’qedmem!” 🙂 where is your profile pic? ካብ ስእሊ’ውን ዓይነት ኣለዎ…ከም ናይ ኣማን ናይ ኮርሶ (ተበገስ) ከይትገብራ 🙂

      • Ermias

        Hailuwa, okay how much did you pay that teenage neighbor of yours to do your profile picture? I know you do not have the patience to go through the motions of it. You are probably logged in to disqus to never be logged out, you know like how a lot of habesha people would tie the tie and only loosen it for the next time around lest they can’t find someone to re-tie it for them. That’s just for humor my brother.

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Hey Ermi,
      Generally you might be correct, that the old generation aren’t savvy as much as the young generation. But not to the extent you think about them. About this Desqus ,One of the thing I understood from experience of doing it, if you edit something on your comment after, say half an hour and if your comment is a lengthy one, it stocks it in the back and takes sometime to show up on the page. As to the tie issue, after over forty years of doing it almost routinely, I don’t think it is difficult. In any case you gave us something to laugh.

      Ermi, as young generation you know what the heck responsibility on your back. I am sure You don’t miss it what I mean. Just fight to dissipate the clouds of civil war.