Demonstrate In Netherlands Against Eritrea Crackdown
10 November 2006
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
Up to 2,000 Christian protestors gathered in front of the
Eritrean embassy in the Dutch town of The Hague early Friday,
November 10, to demand the release of about 2,000 fellow
believers, most of them evangelicals, who they say are
imprisoned across Eritrea for their faith.
cards' in 15 bags, signed by Christians in Belgium and the Netherlands, were
due to be presented to Eritrean diplomats later in the day.
"The only 'crime' of the jailed Eritrean Christians was that
they practiced their faith by singing with each other, praying
and reading the Bible," said Jeno Sebok, spokesman of
Christian rights group Open Doors, which organized the rally.
gather in private homes since May 2002, when
Eritrea closed down
all independent religious groups not operating under the
umbrella of the government-sanctioned Orthodox, Catholic,
Lutheran or Muslim faiths.
Protestant churches, and especially evangelical groups, have
been refused legal registration, but even the Orthodox
Church’s Patriarch Abune Antonius has been place under house
arrest while his reportedly flourishing renewal movement has
fallen out of favor, church leaders say.
The government has
reportedly condemned Antonius for refusing to allow state
interference in church affairs. This month Eritrean
authorities released Helen Berhane, an Eritrean Gospel singer
who was jailed since May 2004, but at least 2,077 people, most
of them Christians, are still jailed for their religious
faith, Christian rights activists say.
Many of them have
been held in shipping containers and military camps, according
to several human rights groups including Amnesty
International. In The
Hague, Open Doors activists attempted
to place a container filled with 2,000 air balloons
symbolizing those imprisoned nearby the Eritrean embassy. A
delegation of Eritrean Christians dressed in traditional
clothing were also seen among the demonstrators, with Dutch
police arranging traffic.
It was not
immediately clear if the Eritrean ambassador would meet
representatives of the demonstrators later Friday, November
government has so far denied human rights abuses, saying that
"no groups or persons" are persecuted in the African country
for their beliefs or religion.
President Isaias Afworki has been quoted as saying that
several religious groups have been "duped by foreigners" who
sought to "distract from the unity of the Eritrean people and
distort the true meaning of religion."