Protest Vigil outside the Eritrean Embassy
Over a 100 Activists from the UK and Northern Ireland held a protest vigil outside the Eritrean embassy to mark the tenth anniversary since the closure of churches, on Thursday 17 May 2012.
Ten years ago this week, the government of Eritrea shut all churches not belonging to the Orthodox Church of Eritrea (Coptic), Catholic Church of Eritrea and Lutheran Church of Eritrea. Following the decree that rendered many churches ‘illegal’ the government arrested their leaders and thousands of believers.
However over the years that followed, even the official churches fell victims of similar persecution and interference by the government. The Orthodox patriarch Abune Antonios was illegally deposed and disappeared in 2006, for resisting government interference in church affairs. Several high profile Orthodox Priests are also in detention.
The vigil that was coordinated by: Release Eritrea, Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Christian Solidarity World Wide, Release International, Church in Chains and the British Orthodox Church, was attended by Metropolitan Seraphim Head of the British Orthodox Church, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun the bishop of Southwark and many others from the different organisations.
Speaking on the occasion Abba Seraphim contrasted the true Christian witness of Abune Antonios and the disappointing acts of the priest who has now taken his place as a government appointee to the Eritrean Orthodox Church. The Bishop of Southwark also spoke of his disappointment that the situation in Eritrea continues unabated.
At the close of the event both priests accompanied by the leaders of the other organisations approached the Eritrean Embassy to deliver the protestors’ joint letter of appeal to the Government of Eritrea, however embassy officials refused to take the letter and the petition had to eventually be delivered by the Police.
The protest vigil was followed by a prayer event held at a nearby church, where more detailed briefings about the current situation in Eritrea were presented and prayers offered by many people who travelled to Central London for the occasion.