The Selfless Bishops Who Took The Lead
Unable to watch the humiliation of their people idly, four Eritrean Catholic Bishops from Segeneiti, Asmara, Keren and Barentu Eparchys rose up and blew the lid in the face of the notorious dictator – Isaias Afewerki. These four courageous Bishops have had it and without fear or favor, they dispatched their pastoral letter to the people in which they unearthed all the evils perpetrated by the PFDJ on the Eritrean people to dismantle the fabric of our society. This historic pastoral letter made it across the borders and has already hit the headlines in the world. Hence, it is warmly embraced by the Eritrean opposition and friends of the national struggle.
Let credit go to where it is due. Historically, the Catholic Church in Eritrea always stood on the side of the oppressed. For instance, at the presence of General Teshome Ergetu, commander of the 2nd. Division and high officials of the government and the public, Abune Abraha Fransewa concluded his preaching in Kidane Mehret Asmara by saying “HIZBI ERITRA ZEY NATU AYHATETEN, BETRI HAQI TEQETN EMBER AYTSEBERN EYA. DEM DEQA ZSETEYET MERET DMA DEQISA AYTDEQSEN EYA.” I was there and even witnessed some Eritrean officials sneaking out because the church was cordoned by tor- serawit and perhaps they expected some skirmish as a reaction to the Bishop’s language. This was circa 1965. I could cite more examples nevertheless, this will serve the purpose.
Even though aware of the PFDJ Guillotine hanging on their necks, these spiritual fathers took the unthinkable initiative to encourage Eritreans at home and abroad to rise up and throw the burden off their backs and once again be free and proud people again. Now, we all know that the Bishops jeopardized their lives on our behalf; in light of this, we have an emergency before us. How can we immediately show our strong solidarity with them so that the head hunters of the PFDJ may not assume the bishops’ call fell on deaf ears and try to heart them? As opposition, we have a duty to create ways of how to unite our rank and file and send a clear and loud message to the dictator that the Diaspora is in complete agreement with the bishops.
How do we show them (Bishops) that we are on their side? We can do it through a variety of methods: for instance, the opposition can call for large and effective demonstrations all over the world; the broadcast media could jam the Eritrean airwaves by repeatedly reading the message of the Bishops to Eritreans in the home front and elsewhere; the written media is even more readily available to everyone who can put words together and can play an important role in spreading the word. Simultaneously, the different factions of the opposition including civic organizations and individuals should devise a mechanism of co-operation in order to be able to speak with one voice for heaven’s sake. We have no more luxury to procrastinate. Ask people who cut short their so-called vacations in Asmara and come back. They will tell you that the real opposition is in Eritrea not in the Diaspora. These are positive indicators for uprising. So, what are we in overseas waiting for? It is time to join hands with our people and march forward together to the finish line.
Despite the tight control of the country, the Catholic spiritual leaders have done their part and more to embolden the besieged people to stand up for their rights and take back their lives and their country from the grip of the PFDJ. However, there is a missing part in the equation here. What about the role of the rest of the religious leaders in Eritrea? Are they planning to respond to the call of the day and let their voices be heard, or will they shrug their role and pass the buck to those who will not shy from martyrdom? I hope they too will come forward and be more voice for the voiceless. In this regard, we the people in the free world have ample opportunities to get our acts together and lead by example. Only then can we encourage religious groups or otherwise inside and outside Eritrea to wake up and challenge the blood merchants in Asmara.
Trust me the junta in Asmara will leave no stone unturned to foil any attempt that smells like an uprising. At this moment Isaias is under enormous pressure. Instead of building the country, he has been digging his own grave by undermining every sector of the economy and now the chickens have come home to roost. He cannot undo what he has been doing to his colleagues, to the people who deserved nothing but peace and justice and to the economy he purposely brought down to its knees. Right now, he doesn’t trust nobody around him, not even his own shadow. Add an insult to injury; as if the pastoral letter was not enough headaches for him, Mr. Ali Abdu, his former minister of information smacked him in the face by exposing conspiracies of his generals plotted to over throw him. He has been lucky though, every attempt against him is gone in smoke but not anymore. The other reason he doesn’t trust anybody is because he thinks he has more expertise than anybody in Eritrea and abroad. Many of his supporters also believe that.
Now, what is left for him is only himself. He has been all along the decider in chief. He neither consults his ministers nor does he accept their advice. Instead, if anyone comes with a different point of view, he/she is at least demoted or thrown in the dungeons for good. Therefore, considering the dire conditions in Eritrea now, Isaias is considerably in the lowest point of his political life. He is surrounded by his enemies, the generals, on whom his life hinges. What can he do with them, throw all of them in jail or kill them all? That doesn’t leave him with a good choice. Either way he is agonizing with difficult choices. Nonetheless, his real lethal enemy is the awakening of the people inside Eritrea. As opposition, where do we fit here? As the saying goes: hit the iron while it is hot; it means we use this opportune time to bring the sufferings of our people to an end by stopping the ego of the dictator on its tracks.
As far as the suspected generals go, I think it is a matter of who blinks first, him or them. Otherwise I don’t believe they can tolerate each other. In any event, the PFDJ Mafia is fully aware that something is brewing; they feel that the ground is shifting beneath their feet; they know that the pot has come to a boiling; an event is shaping; they certainly understand that their time is up. At this juncture, unless the opposition wants to wither away and be irrelevant altogether, it has to step up and do its share. And to the observers whose main job still remains to be evaluating the opposition, please join the revolution for the sake of your country. No amount of analysis and criticism without action can pick even a brick off the backs of our people.
United We Shall Win.