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Eritrean Tewahdo Church Excommunicates Two Persons

Introduction by the translator (Semere T Habtemariam): In the absence of civic associations, communitarian and religious organizations usually fill the gap; and that is the case in Eritrea. The recent pastoral letter of the Catholic Church of Eritrea, the Solidarity letter of the North American Diocese of the Tewahdo Church and now the letter of Excommunication of the Union of the Monasteries of Eritrea are hopeful signs that Eritreans are getting ready for a democratic change. In light of the close relationship Yoftahe Dimetros had enjoyed with the dictator of Eritrea, this is a significant and courageous step by the holy fathers of the Tewahdo Church. What goes for the Tewahdos will go for the nation; they make almost fifty percent of the population; and all democratic change-seekers must appreciate and celebrate these small but historical moments. It is the aggregate effect of these steps that will make Eritrea safe for democracy and democracy safe for Eritrea. This translation, like the previous ones, is a token of my appreciation, admiration and gratitude for these courageous religious and moral leaders who are emboldening the cause of freedom and human dignity.


In the name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit


Re: Statement of Excommunication

Spiritual greetings to you.

It is common knowledge that for over ten years, you, the individuals known as Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam and the priest Habtom Russom, have been administrating the Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea.

It is a truth known to everyone that during your administration, the church that is ancient, Apostolic, Holy and a bastion of peace and unity has been turned into a place of bedlam; its vision distorted; its mission disrupted; and enveloped by a fog of divisiveness which has placed her at a great peril. This is due to your wicked actions which fell outside the parameters of the rule of law. Most of all, you’ve rendered a church that was a source of faith, good moral behavior; a teacher, guide and protector of law and order, and the book of God into a haven for hypocrites and self-serving beasts by destroying its pillars of law and sacraments. You’re the cause and effect of this saddening phenomenon that is exhausting the church and wrecking havoc on it; this is the truth we have been closely following and carefully weighing to determine its veracity. You’re therefore primarily responsible for all the Church’s problems that have gotten worse under your tenure as administrators.

In regard to this, we, the Union of Eritrean Monasteries, have advised and warned you repeatedly, directly and through the Holy Synod and other concerned parties, in writing and verbally, to take quick corrective decisions to nib the problems in the bud. In spite of this, you failed to awaken your conscience and correct the way you conducted and ran your affairs; but you also misconstrued our patience and foolishly led the Church from bad to worse; making her slide backwards like a crab. We’ve become keenly aware and certain that your labor and mission is not to promote the interests and growth of the Church, but to hasten its demise and disintegration so you can serve your own individual interests and gain fame.

Although it is very difficult to compile and list all the damage you’ve incurred and are incurring on the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church, but in order to clarify all your misdeeds and transgressions with the hope that it might help you to repent, we’ve classified them into nine categories:

  1. You’ve repeatedly violated and allowed the violation of the pillars of sacraments, canons and the traditions of the Church;
  2. You’ve unlawfully taken over and monopolized the powers of the Holy Synod and the papacy of His Holiness the Patriarch, and the Archbishops of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church; and in their name and without their consent, you’ve taken illegal actions;
  3. You’ve become partial and a cover to the hypocrites; and served them well by providing them solid ground;
  4. You’ve strangled all aspects of the Church’s apostolic mission and spiritual activities and weakened the Church; labored to weaken and destroy the Union of Monasteries;
  5. You’ve committed and allowed acts that brought in the causes for strife and dissension and put the unity of the Church in jeopardy;
  6. You’ve being using your illegally acquired powers and dictatorial administrations to excommunicate and harass innocent servants of the Church, among whom were fathers from the monasteries and without any due process;
  7. You’ve enabled corruptions and wickedness (contrary to spirituality) to spread within the Church.

In spite of your serious transgressions on the canons, religious traditions, the holy Church and sacredness, we’ve repeatedly reached out and implored you to correct your dictatorial wickedness, but you’ve failed to head our advice. We, the Union of Monasteries, should not allow our limitless patience to be taken for granted; our Church be the play-ground of anyone who dares to come and highjack it as if it doesn’t have owners; we can’t tie our hands behind our backs and watch, for that will be an utter abdication of our most important spiritual obligations. We, therefore, excommunicate you, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam, and the priest, Habtom Russom Habte, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, by the authority of Peter and Paul, the three hundred eighteen fathers of the Orthodox faith, Timothy the Apostle, Abune Selema Kessate Birhan and all holy fathers of the monasteries of Eritrea, effective this hour.

On the basis of this, and from this day, October 01, 2014, forward, you, Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam and the priest, Habtom Russom Habte:

  1. You should not administer, in any form of position or authority, the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea;
  2. You should not participate in the affairs or services of the Holy Church;
  3. In addition, you both have been relieved: Mr. Yoftahe Dimetros Gebremariam from the community of faith, and priest Habtom Russom Habte from your priestly and deaconess duties; you cannot offer or receive services from the Holy Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea; you’re separated from the Church by the strong sword of excommunication.

May the Holy God bless our Church and country!

Union of Eritrean Monasteries

Signed by the Abbots of the following six monasteries:

  1. Monastery Kidus Yohannes
  2. Debre Bizen
  3. Gedam Tsaeda Amba Sellassie
  4. Debre Sina
  5. Debre Tsege Sef’a
  6. Debre Libanos

This Letter of Communication is copied to:

  1. The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church
  2. The various offices of the Patriarch
  3. All the dioceses of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea
  4. Office of Religious Affairs of the Government of Eritrea

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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  • Sinibaldi

    canto de la noche.



    dulzor de la


    vive en el

    de un suspiro


    vida pasar


    la briza

    en la hoja mojada.


  • Rodab

    Hello Hailat,
    In my view, the Catholics are doing a fine work in terms of meeting expectations. The recent paper they published is a great service for all of us, and who knows what kind services they are providing on the ground. One striking observation of the difference between the demands of the two Churches is that while the Catholics not only managed to eliminate the regime out of their church affairs but have gone beyond and speak up on behalf of the larger society, all the only and recently published timid letter of the Orthodox monks was calling for was for nothing more than the removal of two persons. And the fact that Isaias knelt down for the outspoken Church while harassing the silent, obedient Church shows the character of a typical bullyism in him. And you are absolutely right, bullies’ cure is not fear but outright confrontation. The more you give in to bullies, the more they demand. The more you confront them, the further out they stay. Hasekha dembe nab zlemlemelu:-)

  • Rodab reported 10 monks have fled to Ethiopia in connection with the recent excommunication of two individuals that were working as regime agents in the Church. The Monastries’ letter of dismissal of these two individuals was hardly critical, specially compared to the “where is your brother” open letter that bluntly told the dictator he was turning Eritrea into a desolate place with serious consequences. The tyrant had no choice but to suck up his humiliation in front of Eritreans and beyond. But now, he is striking the defenseless. zeHmqho aleni, betrey habuni…
    Isaias, such a bully human being!

    • haileTG

      Merhaba Rodab,

      When the Catholic priests wrote the “Where is your brother” letter, I not only supported the move but also said that they were able to say that because the regime, coward that it is, wouldn’t touch them. The powerful Vatican would be something to deal with if it dared. The Catholic church refused the conscription of its clergy and pretty much rebuffed every single wrong doing of the regime against their church ever since independence. Based on that I said it was also moral duty for them to speak up for the rest of the population’s concern. Unfortunately, I was criticized for downplaying the risks they took (by a wrter at and even my good friend Yodita questioned my sincerity in the opposition (if I was here to undermine the opposition underhandedly). But it so turns out that such was the exact reality of the matter. The Orthodox and the Islamic as well as other faith groups don’t have such powerful patrons that would provide direct cover to threats from the regime. Anyway, the regime indeed coward and has always quietly lost face when someone stood against it firmly. The worst thing you could do in dealing with a bully is fear. Bullies are cowards and their very actions are to cover that insecurity. The sooner our people know that the better.

  • AMEN

    Actually the Ethiopian church under HSI administration which people commonly wrongly
    call it Tewahdo church is not a Tewahdo church….it is coptic orthodox church. The Tewahdo
    church has been suppressed and underground for over 100 years to make way for the take-
    over by the Alexandrian rite coptic church of Ethiopia with the collaboration and as a supplement
    to the colonial design of Ethiopia. All the zemene mesafint era war is partly because of this changes
    and intervention to suppress the religious freedom of the people. And sadly it continued as legitimate
    by successive subsequent rulers like HSI, Mengistu and Woyane administrations.
    MEDRI TSION, AinSaba

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    ቤተ-ክርስቲያን ተዋሕዶ ሕጂኸ ናበይ-?!

    ሊቀ-ካህናት ተክለማርያም ምርካጽዮን
    ሃገረ ስብከት ኤውሮጳ

    ሕጂ ግን ብዝኾነ ይኹን ምኽንያት እቲ ናይ ትማሊ ጌጋ ክድገም፥ ክንጻወሮ ዘይንኽእል ምዃንና ድምጽና ኣበርቲዕና ከነስምዕ ክንክእል ኣሎና። ኩሉ ነገር ወሰን ስለ-ዘለዎ’ውን “-ይኣክል-“ እንብለሉ ግዜ ሕጂ’ዩ።

    …ብርግጽ እዞም ክልተ ኣብ ልዕሊ ቤተ-ክርስቲያን ተዋሕዶ፥ ዓቐኑን መጠኑን ዝሓለፈ ብልሽውና ክፍጽሙ ጸኒሖም ተባሂሎም፥ ብቐጻሊ ክኽሰሱን ክውቀሱን ዝጸንሑ ውልቀ-ሰባት፥ ንልዕሊ ዓሠርተ-ዓመት ክፍጽሙዎ ዝጸንሑ ገበን ቈጺርካን ጸብጺብካን ዝውዳእ ኣይኮነን። እዚ ብኣታቶም ክፍጸም ዝጸንሐ ብልሹውን ግዕዙይን ኣሠራርሓ’ዚ ድማ፥ ንኽንድዚ ዝኣክል-ዓመታት ክቕጽል’ውን ይግብኦ ኣይነበረን። እቲ ብሲኖዶስ ዝፍለጥ ናይ ጳጳሳት-ጉባኤ፥ ኣብ ልዕሊኡ ዝተነብረ ረዚን-ሓላፍነት ክርዳእ ብዘይ-ምኽኣሉ ግና፥ እታ ብቕድስና ዝፍለጥ ታሪኽ ዘለዋ ቤተ-ክርስቲያን፥ ንከቢድ ሓደጋ ከም-እትጋለጽ ገይሩዋ ይርከብ ኣሎ። ስለዚ’ውን እቶም ጳጳሳት ካብቲ ገበን ነፃ ዝኾኑሉ ምኽንያት ኣሎ ክበሃል ኣይከኣልን። ከመይሲ”-ኣንብር ዝበሉዎ ኣየጥፍእ፥ ኣጸብቕ ዝበሉዎኸ ኣየኽፍእ-” ዝብል ምስላ ምህላዉ ክፍለጥ ይግባእ።

    ይኹን እምበር ነቶም ጳጳሳት ካብቲ ገበን ነፃ ክገብሮም ዘየኽእል ካልእ ምኽንያት’ውን ኣሎ። ነቲ ምስ ሕግን ሥርዓትን ቤተ-ክርስቲያን ዝኾነ ምፍላጥ ኣለዎ ዘይበሃል ዮፍታሔ ዲሜጥሮስ፥ “-ዋና ኣማሓዳሪ-“ ብዝብል መዓርግ ኣብ ዘይግብኦን ኣብ ዘይምጥኖን መንበር ክቕመጥ ዝገበሩ ንሳቶም እዮም። ብተወሳኺ ኣብ ሥልጣን ደልዲሉ ንምቕማጥ ዘኽእሎ ባይታ ንምጥጣሕ’ውን፥ ሕጊ ቤተ-ክርስቲያን ክሳብ ምቕያር ዝበጽሕ ርሕቐት ከም-ዝተጓዕዙ፥ ኣብቲ ደምበ-ተዋሕዶና ነዚ ጉድ’ዚ ዘይፈልጥ ኣሎ ክበሃል ኣይከኣልን። ስለዚ እቲ ግዙፍ-ኣካል ዝኾነ ዮፍታሔ፥ ከምኡ’ውን እቲ መሠርይ ዝኾነ ሃብቶም ርእሶም፥ በቲ ኩሉ ኣብ ልዕሊ ቤተ-ክርስቲያን ክፍጽሙዎ ዝጸንሑ ብልሽውና’ኳ ተሓተቲ’ዮም እንተ-ተባህለ። እቶም ሓላፍነቶም ብምዝንጋዕ ነቲ ኩሉ ውድቀት ምኽንያት ዝኾኑ ጳጳሳት፥ ብዝለዓለ ደረጃ ተሓተትቲ ክኾኑ ከም-ዝግባእ’ውን ክዝንጋዕ ዘይብሉ ነጥቢ’ዩ። ከምዚ ምስ ተረኽበ ከኣ’ዩ “-ኣይበዲዶ እንዶ ዝቐደዶ-“ ተባሂሉ ክምሰል ዝኸኣለ።[..]

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  • Semere Andom

    Hi Sem and Rodab:
    Sorry to be a downer, but I think this was orchestrated by PFDJ itself to purge both men. It is hard to fathom that PFDJ reacted to the letter and sacked both its appointees. Sure PFDJ does not need to go through this to purge, kill and disappear anyone, but to think that PFDJ responded to this out of fear of the church is silliness. First the Orthodox church is not a threat to it, it is known for its sitting in the fence or siding with the oppressor for the most part of its history. We think that the JW were the first to be attacked by PFDJ, but EPLF mocked and ridiculed the Orthodox church in their movies and plays as selfish, backward religion and they were mute and when their brothers were put in containers they thought the attack from PFDJ to their own church was going to be merely the verbal abuses. How wrong they were, they believed EPLF’s list of authentic Eritrean religions that was enacted in the 1987 congress. The congress said that the Pentes and the JW were capitalist religions that must be banned and the Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics are truly Eritrean. Go figure that out. The church in question is not an august spiritual body that will stand up to the cruel PFDJ. The Orthodox church in the west is the playing ground for PFDJ officials and for the most part the priests do not do their pastoral duty they are the subservient of PFDJ and to consider this letter as a hanbiger for mass disobedience is like clutching to that proverbial straw of that proverbial drowning person

  • Rodab

    Thanks Semere for your service.
    Quick question: who are you quoting at the introduction?


    The problem was never Yoftahe Dimetros, for he was just a messenger.
    To assume Yoftahe was the culprit is to assume, after his dismissal, the church now has regained its legal status including the release from prison of its most educated and valuable personalities, and the restoration of Patriarch Abune Antonios’ seat, among others.
    The problem is the power-greedy serpent at the President’s office.

    P.S. I had computer glitch. If a second message appears, please delete to avoid repeat. Thanks Mod and have a nice day!!