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Leaders of Banned Churches Hunted, Arrested

The Christian News Network, a US-based news and information provider, reported yesterday that the Eritrean regime has arrested 10 leaders of Christian denominations who were officially banned in 2002.  The report says that the arrests started on Thursday the 17th of January and it quotes a source who explains that what makes this campaign different from previous others is that the intent appears to be to ”eradicate the underground church by targeting its key leaders around the country.”

An Eritrean with close connections to the banned churches tells Gedab News that the arrests were co-ordinated and the movements of the church leaders had been closely followed for some time.

“The numbers are not clear but it is a bit more than 20,” says the source.

The leaders, according to our source,  were taken from their homes, from almost every fellowship and churches.

They are presumed arrested and nobody knows which prison they are being held in.


On May 2002, the Eritrean regime issued a decree demanding that all religions and denominations register and apply for a license to operate in Eritrea.  It  then proceeded to create a rigged application process that would approve only Islam and three Christian denominations–Tewahdo, Catholic and Lutheran–to operate in Eritrea.  The license application for the other Christian denominations–mostly Evangelicals–was neither approved nor rejected: it has been in suspended state for eleven years.  This allows the Eritrean regime to say that there are no “banned churches” in Eritrea,  only churches whose licenses to operate in the country have not been approved.

Eritrea’s president is less guarded in disclosing his motivation.  When asked about this issue, Isaias Afwerki, who never shies away from an opportunity to present himself as an expert on every subject, has ridiculed the very idea of newer denominations by saying that the Koran and the Bible are old documents and since there are no new revelations, there should be no need for new denominations with new interpretations of the holy books.  Using this dogma, the Eritrean regime has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, arrested its leaders and confiscated their property (since 1994); it has banned  all Seventh-day Adventist (LDS), and all non-Protestant Evangelical denominations, as well other “Imperial” religions like Bahai.

Selefi Muslims (derisively called “Wahabis”) who claim that their goal is to purify Islam from the corrupting influences of traditions  are banned from operating in Eritrea.  Many of those suspected of being Selfis (or, more conveniently, “Fifth Columnists” or “Jihadis” or “terrorists”) have been rounded up since 1994.

The regime also has interfered in the church affairs of the Tewahdo Church going to the previously unheard-of extent of arresting its highly respected patriarch and appointing one of its choosing.  The patriarch of the Tewahdo Church, Abune Antonios, has been under house arrest since January 2006 and stripped of his title since 2007.

The Catholic Church has had to shut down its newsletter, and scale down its charitable operations.  It also has to disclose, annually, how much money–and in-kind contribution– it receives from the Vatican.
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  • Azeze

    The article, mentioned Seventh Day Adventist(LDS)
    LDS stands for, “Last Day Saints” that is not correct. At the moment, I am taking Research and Writing course; what I have been learning is, before finalizing a paper, all the content has to be well documented and sources verified.

  • Asmerom

    Just my observation:

    My first observation is that Gedab news is hijacked by the DIA’s supporters. My second observation is that the same people who tried hard to discredit B. General Tekeste are now trying to discredit the Pente leaders.

    As usually they are coming up with new accusation against the Pente leaders -waging war between Muslim and Christian and Brainwashing the youth.

    Guys, keep it tame. This is no funny anymore! Keep it real.

  • Focus

    We all know some members of some faiths claim to believe on the upper life in heaven, and amusingly claim they don’t care what mother earth offers – meaning they don’t care about Eritrea – meaning they will not fight for Eritrea – meaning the dodge national service. But hey, they benefit and share what Eritrea has to offer – and hey they are human beings like us – they work they eat, they shit, just like us.

    The government’s answer is simple and clear – don’t f*** joke about Eritrea

    • henok

      I have served Eritrea for the last 13 years as agelglot! what did i get instead? O! nothing but misery!

    • kirubel

      You might have heard of them saying that they believe in the upper life in heaven and is absolutely right,but it is completely wrong statement when you say”amazingly they don’t care what a mother earth can give….Eritrea”,you couldn’t deny the truth they they fought and shed their blood and even paid their only one time precious life as every individual eritrean

      • kirubel

        Bieng from freedom fighting for independence to the palace.from sahl to Asmara.and then duringthe so called ethio Eritreawar.they were there standing faithfull bodily.

  • Papillon

    Karl Marx might have famously said that religion is opium of the masses. However, faith obviously is not. For one thing, religion is systematic but faith is not. The dictatorial and totalitarian regime in Eritrea has an aversion to not only religion but to any construct whereby people lead their lives outside the realm of government-control or politics. The regime moreover views any faith-based engagement of people as subversive intended to not only destabilize the nation but as a tool of foreign powers as well. On the surface, the regime sanctions the notable four confessions (Islam, Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran) where in reality they are closely scrutinized by its tentacles of intelligence.

    When the Eritrean Orthodox Church engaged in an overhaul to reform itself in a bid to appeal to the young adherents of the faith, the ultra conservatives of the Church accused the reformers of turning the teaching of the Church onto Protestant doctrines where the regime saw an opportunity to intervene and subsequently silenced the reformists. Moreover, the conservatives felt threatened as the rising members of the Church happen to be not only a full-blown ordained priests but highly educated with an accolade of academic credentials in their own right. Cases in point are: Drs. Fitsum and Tecle-Ab a Psychiatrist and an Endocrinologist respectively. These two brilliant individuals practically grew up in the Church and served as Sunday-School teachers in their younger years before they went of to Medical School in Ethiopia in the mid to late 80s. When they came back they got ordained as priests and to their credit authored several books on the teachings and history of the Church. As this was a rather new development in the Church, the conservative elements of the Church in their rather parochial mind set suspected them for it is an “alien” combination to have an educated-priest for it is only seen in either Catholic or Protestant denominations. To that effect, the conservatives in collaboration with the regime systematically eliminated them from the scene. And it has been almost ten years now since Drs. Fitsum and Tecle-Ab disappeared into the dungeons of the regime.

    In light of that, it is rather clear to see that, the young people resort onto other denominations which appeals to their immediate and tensed up mental anguish as the regime suffocates the society to the point of abject dispair. Sure enough, through out history, people turn to God for consolation and hope where present day Eritrea is not an exception. It is rather comforting to see the young people turning to God as a way out of the angst as opposed to resorting into alcohol and other vices where the regime is taking it for a liability as opposed to an asset.

  • !Hatati

    ስጋብ ሎሚ ዘይተኣሰሩ ዶ ኔሮምዮም ደቀይ? ኩሎም ተኣሲሮም ዶ ይብሃል ኣይነበረን:: እዚኣስ እዘን ጡሩፋት “ክርስትያን” ኣሜርካ ንመራጎዲ ዝፈጠረኣ ዜና እያ ትመስል!

    • henok

      HaQi merar eya. minegerkuka abey kedka hbue zikone programe kemetisatef gn hadega ab nitsuhan sebat kewurid si nat dribdrib geben eyu. if you have any pente relative,you know ….they will invite you to thier secretive underground chirches.

  • sarah

    When the hopes and aspiration of the young people are dashed by the very people they trusted and when their own family religion (especially orthodox) is made deliberately confusing and corrupt naturally they lean towards whatever gives them hope and they go into deliberate denial. why do you think there are more religions now than in the past? because the young people do not have anyone to turn to. they look to the right everything is a lie then the look to all other direction and everything is sad then they have to try to find something that would give them peace of mind. they are human beings you know! they have to make sense or the senseless things going on around them. Otherwise, look at Jehovah’s witnesses, they are more of business people and con artists; go to pente’s church they are shouting ‘we will crash our enemy’ when they are supposed to teach forgiveness and tolerance. So the government has no right to arrest them. they are its own creations.

  • Bini

    I am the happiest person now because i no longer believe in any religion. Religion is a politics; a policy to the rule of a dictator. 100% of tewahdo, 90 % catholic and 80% protestant church opposes the pentes and other western churches that appeared recently because they are new to eritrea. Their doctrine is infiltrated with politics of the west- support Israel and destrol palestinian. I remember the was a skirmish between israel and palestinian annd in the program it was the main Sbket about it- politics!!! However if you go to orthodox church they don’t usually got out of e geez recitation. Forgive me but ask any pente ho their enemy is and where he resides. Their main enemy is a devil who is called a moslim. I do not wan to see war between religious factions in eritrea. There should be a law nit even to talk blame game between religious programs. Naming a christian or a moslim as the main culprit if the universe should be given death sentence. I know as an atheist i wont care about either but ONE people and ONE nation. I cant wait fall of the dictator!

  • Why do we need new religions? Do, by any means have to copy and paste what the west is doing? They’ve to respect the rule/law of the country…the GOE need them to register…that’s it! why they don’t want to? what’s behind it?

    • Bini

      There is a reason for their arrest because they are danger to the countries existence. These religious leaders and their folowers ONLY enemy of the Christ is a moslim. I have been participating in all most ” enda pente” churchs, thanks to my cacciatore behaviour coz they got beautiful girls. In all most all the church not a single one teaches about tolerance but hatred towards the moslim BECAUSE they were tought christianity and moslim are the only religion in the world. These people have never studied theology. These people could insight war between moslims and chrisians had they given a chance to preach in godena harinet. Even though i am now against the dictator and his puppets the only thing i could support is this effort to thwart their ” RAEY” of destroying a mosque or burning a moslim from the lowland. Even after the fall of issayas we must continue preventing a non ending religious war between the two main religious figures. Long live Eritrea and Awet n Hafash wudketbni dictator issayas.

      • Juju

        You just know little and you feel you know much more. I thing you dislike the president but if you and people like you could be in the place of the president you could be worst than him for humanity. Eritrea need salvation from people who have narrow minded .

    • haki

      are you telling me the governement has to tell me what religion to follow and what not to follow. even the existence of the country itself depends if eritreans want it. that is why we voted in the referendum. if you neglect individual rights then you are also neglecting the referendum on which which we exercised our individual right. if you forfeit individual rights you forfeit your soverignty.
      learn from country’s like libya before it is too late for your dictator. leave religion to individuals and don’t tell me who i will worship.

  • Hienok

    The government has the highest authority to maintain law and order, peace and security of of the country irrespective of where the treat is coming from or irrespective of the name under which it is disguised or concealed, be it in the name of religion, party, association, organization, NGO, “Geberty senai”, you name them. The government of Eritrea knows them very well. These groups are not interested for the good of the people for themselves (earn their living) and for their superiors (masters or “LeaKtom” with an agenda. God bless Eritrea and its people.

  • Nana

    Haki eyu ab eritrea mesel nay haymanot zbehal kem zeyele aserte gze npresident nftewo maere maerieu ka haki nfto mknyau ab kdmi aynna bhaymanot amesamisom ksab kndey kem zbedelwom si manm ertrawi zfelto eyu gena zkxl zelon eyu ente eti nay zhalefe were hna gena mengstna keman keber aygebereknan alo emo haknetu mflat agedasi ymesleni.

  • Papillon

    Gideon Abbay Asmerom is a member of Seventh-Day Adventist. And he is the high-priest (read: cadre) of the very regime that is prosecuting the church that he was born into, grew up in and gave him the education that he is flashing around to gain a free rein in a society where an academic is revered with a license to the “truth”. Faust comes to mind.

  • this is anather propoganda by awate whom do you put next aresst this anather lie by the WEST spend money & time to divided the ERITREAN people ithink this enemys are desprate they cannot sleep all night to find lie to report this is their last ifort after they see what happen IN THE MINISTRY INFORMATION that was their only hope when it fail they start rambege in UK ERITREAN EMBASSY this shows their SHINKET & ILOVE IT long live I SAIAS AWET NIHAFASH

    • Sewit

      U Vuvuzella of the failed regime of Isayas the butcher. Now the people started to say Enough is enough!!!

    • Juju

      Felitu zidekese neknikayo aytisiean eyu . Bhaymanot ziteasre yelen zibl eritrawi entelo ab kalea kokob eyu zelo enber ab alem yelon.