Eritrea Detains 15 Monks, Group Says

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

By Eric Leijenaar, Worthy News Senior Special Correspondent

Patriarch Abune Antonios was replaced by a government official.

ASMARA/AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) -- Eritrea has detained 15 monks in the capital Asmara for allegedly planning actions in and outside the African country against the "government's interference" in the Eritrean Orthodox Church, rights campaigners confirmed Tuesday, July 7.

Netherlands-based advocacy group Open Doors, which supports Christians persecuted for their faith, told Worthy News that the monks planned to publish details surrounding the choice of patriarch.

More details surrounding the arrests and their names were not released, apparently amid security concerns.


Amid government  Patriarch Abune Antonios pressure was replaced by a state-appointed official, but Orthodox rules say the church leader can only be dismissed for "immoral" activities, according to church observers.

"The arrests of monks are remarkable as they are part of the Eritrean Orthodox Church which has been officially recognized by the government," said Open Doors spokesman Klaas Muurling. So far, he said, "Persecution mainly focused on Christians outside these churches" and towards believers "who actively want to share their faith with others."

Some 2,800 Christians are believed to be detained in Eritrea, including in prisons, underground jails, containers, military camps and labor camps. They live in horrible circumstances, Open Doors said.

The Eritrean government has denied mass Christian detentions saying  "no groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion."