World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Religious freedom and liberty in Eritrea

23 June 2003

Letter to Mr Ali Ali Abdu, Minister of Information and Culture of Eritrea, 23 June,
2003


Dear Sir,

I write on behalf of the World Council of Churches. In July 2002, Dr Konrad
Raiser, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, visited Eritrea and
had meetings with church representatives and officials of the government. During
his visit, Dr Konrad Raiser met former Minister, Mr Naizjhi Keflu Bahta, and
discussed amongst others the issue of religious freedom and liberty in Eritrea.

During the past year the World Council of Churches has consistently received
reports of closure of churches and harassment of Christians in Eritrea. This action
of the authorities has effectively prevented Evangelical and Pentecostal Christian
groups from carrying on worship services. It is in violation of the fundamental
human rights of freedom of religion, conscience, worship and organization. Such
action is tantamount not only to interference in the practice of one's religion but
is also in conflict with international norms and standards of human rights laws.

There have also been reports of unprovoked arrests of Christian worshippers.
Several worshippers of Rema Church, Full Gospel Church and Kale Hiwot Church
were detained early this year in a crackdown by the authorities. These however
are not the only incidents of harassment, intimidation and persecution of Christians
without justifiable cause. There are reports of similar incidents of unwarranted
arrests from other parts of the country as well. In some cases, though, detainees
were released after being kept in custody for short periods.

The World Council of Churches is deeply disturbed by these reports. We accordingly
write to you to enquire about this situation and the reasons for the authorities
to act in such a high-handed manner despite the guarantees provided in
Article 19 of the Eritrean Constitution. This being a matter of urgency, an early
response will be appreciated.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Weiderud
Director