In an indication of the Eritrean government’s increasingly oppressive tactics, the legitimate patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), Abune Antonios, was forcibly removed from his residence in the early hours of Sunday 27 May, and transported to an undisclosed location, according to sources in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.
A report from anonymous EOC sources on the Eritrean website www.asmarino.com says Patriarch Antonios was forcibly evicted from his official residence by members of the Eritrean security forces at 5am local time, and was taken to an unknown destination. The Patriarch suffers from severe diabetes and fears have been expressed for his continued wellbeing.
Patriarch Antonios was illegally removed from office in January 2006 and placed under stringent house arrest after increasingly resisting unwarranted government intervention in church affairs.
As a result of government pressure, the Bishop of Mendefera, Abune Dioscoros, was consecrated as patriarch on 27 May in violation of the church’s constitution. It is thought that Patriarch Antonios was evicted to enable Dioscoros to make use of the official residence.
The anonymous sources concluded by expressing outrage and embarrassment that Dioscoros’ unlawful installation took place during celebrations of the Day of Pentecost, and lamenting the moral decline of the nation. In addition, most residents of Asmara are reported to be deeply saddened by the Patriarch’s forcible eviction.
Patriarch Antonios is one of around 2,000 Christians currently detained without trial or charge in Eritrea.
On 31 May, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Release Eritrea and Christian Concern for Freedom of Conscience (CCFC) will hold a rally outside the Eritrean Embassy in London to protest at the continuing detention and mistreatment of Christians and other prisoners of conscience in Eritrea.
Meanwhile, the 53 Eritrean asylum seekers who were feared drowned in the Mediterranean have been rescued and incarcerated by the Libyan authorities, according to the relative of one asylum seeker.
One of the asylum seekers contacted a relative using a smuggled telephone. They reportedly indicated that the group, which includes women and children, is secretly being held in an isolated prison, and expressed fears that Libya plans to deport them to Eritrea surreptitiously.
The asylum seekers were reportedly first sighted by Maltese armed forces, but fell into Libyan hands when the Maltese rescue vessels only reached the area following a nine hour delay.
(Christian Solidarity Worldwide)