[dehai-news] (AC) ERITREA: Challenges and Threats Posed by New Religious Movements

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Thu Mar 12 2009 - 03:34:11 EST

ERITREA: Challenges and Threats Posed by New Religious Movements

Sophia Tesfamariam
 March 11, 2009
The story is long, so bear with me…it will take a while...but in the
end, I hope that we would have learned from the mistakes of the last 8
years and most importantly, that the incoming Obama Administration will
not commit the same blunders that have wrecked havoc in the lives of
millions in Africa.
Much has been said and written about religion in Eritrea and various
accusations have been hurled at the Government and people of Eritrea
over the last 8 years. I believe it is time once again to re-visit the
issue of "religious freedom" in Eritrea and how this "wedge issue" was
hatched and why Eritrea was targeted. While the regime in Ethiopia may
have contributed, by way of lies and disinformation, to the campaign to
demonize the Eritrean leadership, the scope of the agendas seem to be
much larger than anything the aid-dependent minority regime could ever
muster on its own. A beggar regime whose national budget is donor
subsidized and whose people are dependent on food aid, and whose
institutions of government are externally funded and run, neither has
the financial or intellectual capacity, to launch or sustain such a
It was also a campaign that the so-called Eritrean opposition (a dubious
association of like-minded defectors, disgruntled diplomats, pedophiles,
rapists, self-professed "intellectuals and professionals" and an
assortment of scandalous opportunists), who I have baptized as Eritrea´s
Quislings League (EQL), could never organize or lead without directives.
After overcoming almost three decades of betrayals and untold suffering,
the neocolonialists should have been hard pressed to find a single
Eritrean Chalabi …but as we have seen in the last decade, Eritrea too
has her share of treasonous children and scholars-for-hire… Instead of
defending the dreams and aspirations of the Eritrean people, they set
out to advance that of others. The EQL sert out to betray the trust of
the Eritrean people.
Serving as puppets for the minority regime in Ethiopia; they undermined,
ridiculed and sullied every Eritrean institution. They left no stone
unturned to isolate Eritrea and deny Eritrea and its people the right to
development. They burned the midnight oil churning out "analysis",
"reports", "lists" etc. to malign Eritrea, its people and its
leadership. Even the historical Eritrean Orthodox Church was challenged
and its members rebuked. As we will see later, the Eritrean Orthodox
Church was long targeted and the EQL, instead of defending the rights of
the Church, worked in tandem with its enemies to distort its history and
its foundation. Today, we see a member of the EQL is parading "In Chains
for Christ"-how fitting for someone who have been unable to unchain
himself from mental slavery…this from a man who had the audacity to
preach to others about African decolonization.
So, if it not the minority regime in Ethiopia and if not the EQL, then
who was running the show? Well, suffice it to say that it too was an
equally dubious alliance of fundamentally different and even
ideologically opposed religious and political factions. One was the
coalition of evangelical Christians (also known as the New Christian
Right) and other was the aggressive political ideologues commonly known
as the Neoconservatives. Despite their many ideological, cultural, and
socioeconomic differences, these two factions found common ground in
Bush White House and they, like Machiavelli back then, recognized the
power of religion as a potent political tool. The cartel used civil
religion to justify, promote and effectuate its political goals. They
introduced us to a new brand of politics coined "Political
Fundamentalism" -which has been defined as the "strategic manipulation
of religious beliefs, narratives, and sentiments for political gain at
home and for aggressive militarism overseas". I will henceforth refer to
them as the cartel.
Jeffrey Goldberg of the New York Times wrote about the cartel and its
agenda in the 21 December 1997 article "Washington Discovers Christian
Persecution". According to Goldberg, the cartel included:
"...Reaganite conservatives, labor activists, veterans of the Soviet
Jewry movement and, most important, evangelical Christians. These
unlikely partners are united by their desire to "remoralize" American
foreign policy…Midwifed by a handful of veteran organizers, this is an
issue manufactured in the mile-square section of Washington that
produces the most priceless of political commodities: the wedge issue.
It is a process of political manufacturing that Washington seems to have
perfected the taking of a simple, transparently righteous issue and
turning into a political football..."
The Bush Administration´s Faith Based Initiative buoyed their coffers
and offered them further access to nations big and small around the
With a variety of mercenaries in tow, the cartel, which controlled the
purse and the agenda, launched a massive disinformation and vilification
campaign against the State of Eritrea. Eritrea´s Chalabis, expert
information launderers that they have become, were eager to peddle
countless lies and exaggerations about Eritrea´s history, economy, and
its leadership and people-especially the Eritrean Diaspora. After
jumping on the "democracy" and "human rights" bandwagons in the early
years, the confused and disoriented EQL lined up to push the "religious
freedom in Eritrea" wagon, while the cartel rode high. They figured it
would be the most divisive issue, and the one that could help them
achieve their ultimate goals. In these circles, treason and deceit are
commonplace and there was plenty of that. Eritreans endured an incessant
barrage of distortions, fabrications and insults from self-righteous
individuals and groups.
The cartel which enjoyed unprecedented access and power in the Bush
Administration, is seeking to do the same with the new Barack Obama
Administration. With individuals strategically placed in key Washington
institutions such as Freedom House, the US Commission on International
Religious Freedom, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Open Doors,
World Wide Evangelicals, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and in the
United States Congress, the "network" managed to pass legislations
during the Bush era, that would most probably not see the light of day
in an Obama Administration…that does not mean that they will not try…
and some already have.
It is that access, influence and power that enabled cartel groupies like
Joseph Griebosky of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and Dick
Army, Meles Zenawi´s lobbyist, to provide the minority regime in
Ethiopia, the political and diplomatic shield it needed as it violated
international law, committed international crimes in Somalia, and
committed genocides in the Gambela, Ogaden and Oromia regions of
Ethiopia. The cartel and its "network" bombarded Congress with faxes,
emails and letters to prevent lawmakers from taking action against the
lawless and belligerent regime. When US lawmakers introduced HR-2003,
known as the Ethiopian Democracy and Human Rights Bill, it was Joseph
Griebosky that wrote to the United States Congress to kill the Bill.
Here is what he wrote:
"...Ethiopia has made outstanding progress in democratic development,
human rights, religious freedom, political and civil rights. Despite
this improvement, the House of Representatives wishes to impose its own
timeline and its own standards on Ethiopia's advance… H.R.2003 is a
threat to American political and security interests in the Horn of
Africa and in Africa as a whole and only serves to alienate yet another
ally with a sticks-but-no-carrots approach to foreign policy…It is
imperative that the United States Senate reexamines the merits of H.R.
2003 as currently drafted and amend the bill to provide the appropriate
democratic tools and capacity-building agenda, before it causes undue
harm to American interests..."
Not surprisingly, Meles Zenawi is not the first brutal dictator that the
cartel has defended; their hands are soaked with the blood of thousands
of innocent people all over the world. Throughout the Cold War years,
these groups have been responsible for helping to get these dictators
into power and then provided the diplomatic and political shield and
support to stay in power. Some examples of such dictators who enjoyed
the cartel´s support are Mohammed Suharto of Indonesia, the most brutal
and corrupt of the 20th century, Haiti´s Papa Doc Duvalier, Guatemala´s
General Rios Montt, Siad Biarre of Somalia.
In the 1980´s, using language similar to that used by Griebosky to
defend Meles Zenawi, the American televangelist Pat Robertson defended
the atrocities committed by General Rios Montt of Guatemala. Nikolas
Kozloff on 18 September 2005 warned of Pat Robertson´s duplicity and
hypocrisy. He wrote:
"...Rios Montt conducted a scorched earth policy. His forces massacred
as many as 15,000 Indians. Whole villages were leveled and the army set
up "Civilian Self-Defense Patrols" which forced 900,000 villagers to
"voluntarily" aid police in tracking down suspects. Rios Montt created
"model" villages, similar to concentration camps, which housed Indian
refugees. However, when 40,000 survivors sought safety in Mexico,
Guatemalan helicopters machine gunned the camps…Amnesty International
noted that extra judicial killings carried out the by the military "were
done in terrible ways: people of all ages were not only shot to death,
they were burned alive, hacked to death, disemboweled, drowned,
beheaded. Small children were smashed against rocks or bayoneted to
death."…Far from denouncing such practices, Robertson rushed to defend
Rios Montt. "Little by little the miracle began to unfold," he wrote of
the regime. "The country was stabilized. Democratic processes, never a
reality in Guatemala, began to be put into place. Most damning of all,
even as Rios Montt was carrying out the extermination of the Mayan
population, Robertson held a fundraising telethon for the Guatemalan
But Rios is not the only dictator that has won the support of Robertson
and the cartel. Mobuto Sese Seko also benefited from his close
friendship with Pat Robertson. He then, like Meles Zenawi today, was
portrayed by Robertson as a "loyal US ally" in the war against
international communism. He also emerged as Mobutu's close friend, and
probably his most valuable asset in a deceptive campaign to maintain his
stature with some ruling circles in the United States. Robertson was
"wined-and-dined" by Mobutu on the dictator's presidential yacht, and
entertained at his lavish estates. Robertson was rewarded handsomely for
his political support and shield. He received extensive lumber and
mining concessions along the upper Zaire River and operated a 50,000
acre farm in Zaire (now Congo).
Pat Robertson is not the only member of the cartel that has provided
diplomatic and political, shield and support for vicious and criminal
regimes that have committed historical crimes against humanity. No one
should forget the support given by Jerry Falwell for the apartheid
regime in South Africa. In the 1980s, the leaders of the unashamedly
pro-free market economics and anti formal religion cartel had invested
heavily in apartheid South Africa. Believing that the African liberation
struggles would bring an end to their free reign over the territories,
they demonized the liberation struggle and its leaders. Many were forced
into exile, many more were killed. Back then it was "the fight against
communism", that served as a pretext for their "unholy" alliances. They
said that South Africa was "the Kremlin's Playground" and that its
leaders were "Marxist". Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naudé, and Allan Boesak
were portrayed as dangerous "foes" and Nelson Mandela was labeled a
Ted Haggard, one of the nation's most influential conservative
"Christian" leaders and a staunch ally of the Bush administration, who
in a recent letter to his congregation confessed that he was "a deceiver
and a liar" and cited "sexual immorality" as the reason for resigning
from his position as President of the National Association of
Evangelicals and as pastor of his Colorado mega-church (14,000-member
congregation), once claimed that Jesus wants a free market economy.
No to be outdone, Billy Graham, a renowned Evangelical Christian and
spiritual adviser to multiple U.S. presidents was against communism and
supportive of U.S. Cold War policy, including the Vietnam War. But his
political views did not stop him from having a very close relationship
with the late North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung. Graham said that
Il-Sung was a "different kind of communist" and that he was "one of the
great fighters for freedom in his country against the Japanese." There
is a saying in Tigrinya that goes something like this-kit bel´o zideleKa
aba gumbah, zagra tiblo…
Déjà vu!
Today we see the cartel and its mercenaries employing pretty much the
same propaganda techniques to demonize the Government of Eritrea and its
leadership. Damning pictures and words have been replayed in thousands
of missionary sites by the cartel for over 5 years. Pat Robertson´s 700
Club and the many hundreds of radio programs such as Compassion Radio,
and hundreds of website have disseminated un-Christian propaganda. These
lies have been regurgitated by young and old Americans; some of these
people do not even know where Eritrea is, but chose to propagate the
lies and deceptions, forgetting God´s commandments that clearly say,
"thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor" and "thou shall
not lie´. Toeing the line is a group of cheap imitators who insist on
being "In Chains for Christ". These individuals and groups call on
prayers for others when it is obvious that it is them who need prayer
and salvation the most.
There are individuals and groups that have been obsessed with Eritrea,
as if it were their final quest. One of them is Glenn Penner. This man
who insists on challenging this author about Eritrea, as if he would
know Eritrea better than I would, is typical of the patronizing and
condescending lot. For a man who has never visited Eritrea, knows
absolutely nothing about Eritrea´s long and deep religious history, or
about Eritrea´s cultures and or about the people, and could care less,
has gone out of his way to pen the most outrageous and false articles on
Eritrea. For people like him, the end justifies the means. In some he
has even attempted to provoke this author (rather childishly, I might
add). But he, like all the other peddlers of Christian persecution news,
knows that without the deceptions and the lies, there would be no
sensational gut wrenching stories to tell. No stories, no funds…
"Spreading the Gospel" is not going to earn them the $45 million dollars
a year that "persecution of Christians" rakes in...
This member Voice of the Martyrs (VoM) maliciously labeled the
Government of Eritrea "Communist" and falsely claimed that "the Eritrean
security was trained by the East German Stasi, who were experts at
recruiting informers from within religious groups" . Had he known
anything about Eritrea´s long and heroic struggle for independence, he
would have known that the East German´s never supported the Eritrean
peoples struggle and never trained any members of the Eritrean People´s
Liberation Front (EPLF). Glenn Penner knowingly misled his readers.
Instead of doing his homework, he chose to "cut and paste"
unsubstantiated reports from dubious sources such as Release Eritrea.
For people like him, it is the sound bites that he chases, not the
truth. The fundamentalist and evangelical groups, such as VoM, preyed on
the sympathies and kindness of the American public while and fleeced it
of millions in donations and contributions, solicited on behalf of the
But he is not the only person at VoM that has fabricated lies and
distorted the truth to hoodwink his readers and hide VoM´s lawlessness.
Todd Nettleton is another member of that NGO who has engaged in the most
vicious campaign designed to distort Eritrea´s image. He is one of the
many individuals and groups missionaries who have abused Eritrea´s visa
regulations and entered the country under false pretexts citing tourism
or business (English teacher) as reasons and then extending their stay
repeatedly to carry on missionary and proselytizing activities.
Unfortunately, Eritrea is not his sole victim; there have been many
other nations that have been violated by this wayward "missionary". He
justifies his illegal entry into sovereign nations and his lawless
activities by saying that he is doing it for the good of the
"converts"…he traverses the globe and tells us that if people are not
introduced to the Gospel, "the alternative is that they will go to
hell". The alternative is that there will not be conflicts and violence
and therefore no persecution stories for his group to peddle. For
Nettleton and his group, its not just Moslems that are targeted, but as
we shall see later, it is the established churches, such as the Eritrean
Orthodox Church in Eritrea and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in
Ethiopia, that are prime for "harvest".
Then there is the audacious Kevin Turner, a USAID subcontractor that
entered Eritrea pretending to be a "humanitarian" worker, who had no
qualms insulting the people and government of Eritrea, while he was
still in Eritrea. Probably felt that his USAID credentials gave him free
reign in Eritrea, as it did in Sudan where he has been "converting
Moslems" for over 14 years. Turner of Strategic World Impact (SWI) tells
an unlikely tale about a dream in which Jesus Christ told him that there
were 9 hot spots in the world that he needed to go to and do God´s work.
By coincidence, they also nicely aligned with those countries that are
of strategic political and economic interest to the cartel leaders.
Feeding on the fear of Islam and the Islam phobic atmosphere in the
United States, he sent numerous reports from Eritrea accusing the
President of Eritrea, H.E. Isaias Afwerki, a Christian, of trying to
"Islamize" the nation. He falsely and malicious propagated the false
accusation of Christians being imprisoned "in the middle of nowhere in
40-foot shipping containers" which are "very hot during the day and
freezing cold at night". For Turner and his ilk, the nastier the tale,
the better the response from the gullible that he and the cartel sought
to deceive. These modern day missionaries are no different than their
forefathers…the apple does not fall too far away from the tree…
The scandal ridden-cartel that brought us the illegal detentions of
Guantanamo Bay, the prisoner torture and abuse of Abu Ghraib,
extraordinary renditions and secret prisons all over the world,
including Ethiopia, and the fake National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
and National Democratic Institute (NDI) sponsored multi colored and
scented revolutions such as: Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Rose
Revolution in Georgia, Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, Purple Revolution in
Iraq, Saffron Revolution in Myanmar (Burma) and fake elections such as
the 2005 elections in Ethiopia and the bloody Kenyan election of 2007,
did not have the moral or legal authority or integrity or credibility,
to preach to Eritrea about anything, least of all religious freedom.
What triggered the aggressive militancy of the "political
fundamentalists"? Yash Tandon of the South Center in his 1996 paper on
Africa´s development wrote:
"...The collapse of the Soviet-style Communism obscures a deep crisis
facing Western powers. Other forces are emerging to challenge them. One
is fundamentalism. The West had a clear answer to Soviet communism, but
has no answer to Islamic fundamentalism where the issues go beyond the
development paradigm. Against Islamic fundamentalism, the West offers
its own forms of Christian fundamentalism..."
During the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a bewildering
explosion of new religious movements (NRMs) in Africa. We have all heard
about the massive open-air rallies, crusades, revival gatherings,
miracle centers, healing ministries and so on. While there are many
African Christian churches that have been established by Africans
themselves, it hardly explains how the number of churches in Africa grew
from about 5000 churches in 1968 to the tens of thousands today. The
headlines are filled with stories of this phenomenon. Here are a few
"...Authorities in Cameroon are seeking to control the surging numbers
of Pentecostal churches in the country… Distinguishable by the loud
music which emanates during services, the churches are found in the most
densely-populated areas… concerned officials in the South West Cameroon
governor's office, together with police, have stepped in and begun
closing down some of the churches - even though Cameroon is a secular
state with freedom of worship..." (BBC 24 April 2007)
"...There has been a boom in the number of new Pentecostal churches in
Nigeria in recent years… Almost half the disciples are foreigners… Many
Pentecostal churches have set up schools and universities, often
focusing on business skills..."(BBC in pictures)
"...The Registrar General is overwhelmed by increasing demand for the
registration of churches … the department is facing difficulties in
processing 6,740 pending applications by various religious
groupings…about 60 applications are filed every month. Already, there
are 8, 520 registered churches…The AG [Attorney General] cautioned that
some of the groups masquerading as churches were illegal outfits
established to cash in on freely flowing money in the evangelical
world…There is an astronomical increase in the application for the
registration of religious societies, some of them turning out to be
either wolves and sheepish or formed purely for financial gain, and take
advantage of the unsuspecting public..."(East African Standard 4
September 2007)
Allow me to present some recent stories that will show some of the
problems that developing countries are facing because of these modern
day missionaries and their illegal, aggressive proselytizing and
conversion schemes:
Groups of Ethiopian Christians were reportedly still hiding in churches
Thursday, January 18, after one believer was killed, Christian homes
burned and several believers were threatened with execution for
converting from Islam.
Violence has engulfed some predominantly Moslem villages in Nigeria,
where Nigerian Moslems are protesting the visit of German evangelist
Reinhard Bonnke.
The recent Hindu attacks on Christians in the east and south of the
country where churches homes and schools belonging to Christians were
burned down and 22 people were killed and thousands forced to camps is
yet another example. In this case, Christians in the area were "forcibly
converting Hindus to Christianity". The report cited a rise in
"prosperity and status" that accompanies conversion to Christianity as
being the underlying reason.
In March 2008, the Jordanian government deported an unspecified number
of expatriates for "carrying out Christian missionary activities under
the guise of charity work". Jordan, where Jesus Christ was baptized and
is also home to several tombs of the Prophet Mohammed's companions and
Mount Nebo, and where according to biblical tradition God showed Moses
the Promised Land, is a popular destination for Christian, Muslim and
Jewish pilgrims alike who revere Moses.
On 6 April 2007, the Times of India report said: "…police had questioned
26 American tourists on a visit to the city after residents of a slum in
Baghlingampally complained that the foreigners were trying to convert
the locals… a group of 53 foreigners had come to India on tourist visas.
Of them, 26 came to the city led by a schoolteacher from California …the
villagers complained that the foreigners were trying to convert the
locals… the tourists were propagating their religion by luring people
with gifts like chocolates and sweets… The tourists are reported to
belong to a group, Youth Wing Mission and went to the slum in vehicles
provided by Bethel Gospel church…"
Not to single out Kenya, but this statistics on Kenya is interesting and
a wake up call for Africans. In "Keeping Kenya Christian" posted on 18
February 2008 , the Economist reported:
"...Missionaries are not the only ones interested in keeping Kenya
Christian: the international community also enlists Christ to further
Kenya's stability. Colonial governments funded missionaries to ease
tribal tensions. Western governments support them to battle the spread
of Muslim extremists. The US government counts hundreds of international
Christian groups as development partners. Of the 9,000 Americans in
Kenya, two-thirds are missionaries and their families..."
Imagine the fit the bigoted self-righteous cartel would have if 6000
Moslem Kenyan Missionaries came to live in their midst, to convert their
children, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers to Islam and convert
their Mega Churches to Mega Mosques or as they are doing in Africa,
break them up into many "house Mosques" or "Islamic cells". Yet, when
countries introduce laws to protect their people´s peace and security
from the cartel and the aggressive militancy that is engaged in
religious expansion, "harvesting believers", creating "underground
churches" and "Christian cells", they are labeled "draconian",
"anti-Religious Freedom" etc. etc. These groups go out of their way to
provoke governments, but are the first to cry "foul" when governments
act. What hypocrites!
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana´s first president warned of these groups over 4
decades ago, as he recognized the entry of various "missions" that were
established by the neocolonialists to maintain control over the
economies of the newly independent African states:
"...Perhaps one of the most insidious methods of the neo-colonialists is
evangelism. Following the liberation movement there has been a veritable
riptide of religious sects, the overwhelming majority of them American.
Typical of these are Jehovah´s Witnesses who recently created trouble in
certain developing countries by busily teaching their citizens not to
salute the new national flags. ´Religion´ was too thin to smother the
outcry that arose against this activity, and a temporary lull followed.
But the number of evangelists continues to grow..."
To its Bretton Woods "structural adjustments programs", the cartel now
added the Bible belt´s "spiritual adjustment programs" to maintain its
economic stranglehold on Africa and its vast mineral, oil and other
natural resources.
According to the modern day missionaries, they have a mandate to make
disciples in all nations and fundamentalists and evangelicals launched
"The Joshua Project"- to take the Gospel to as many "un-reached" people
in the world as possible. The countries have been chosen and put into a
neat rectangular area that Luis Bush (no relations to George Bush) says
is the most important area that missionaries should focus on. Bush
describes it and its importance:
"...It is a belt that extends from West Africa across Asia, between 10
degrees north to 40 degrees north of the equator… 97 percent of the 3
billion people who live in the 55 most un-evangelized countries live in
the 10/40 Window… it is the heart of Islam… Adherents to the Islamic
religion are growing, as is suggested by the increased numbers
pilgrimaging to Mecca. Yet at the same time, it is reported that many
Muslims–having studied the Koran in great depth–have discovered in the
process that the highest prophet described in the Koran is Jesus Christ
and not Muhammad… just as Eastern Europe recognized that the atheistic
ideology of Communism could not stand the test of time, so also the
"eyes" and the "hearts" of the Muslims will be opened to the truth… it's
where the three main religious blocs are located. There is the Muslim
bloc with 706 million … There is the Hindu bloc with 717 million people
… And there is the Buddhist bloc with 153 million..."
By the time George Bush came to the White House, the Project was already
at its height in places such as India, Burma and in African countries
such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Cameroon. In Eritrea, the Afar,
Beja, Bilen, Kunama, and Saho were considered the "un-reached" and
missionaries eyed the newly independent nation.
Eritrea (pre-independence and post independence) has also seen an
explosion of NRMs with roots in Ethiopia or in the West. The variety of
these groups include the Church of the Living God- out of the Medhane
Alem (Sunday School Ministries) revival groups within the Eritrean
Orthodox Church, Dubre Bethel Church , Faith of Christ Church,
Hallelujah Church / Hallelujah Pentecostal Church, Kale Hiwot (Word of
Life- Baptist church affiliated to the SIM, formerly the Sudan Interior
Mission), Mensfesawyan, Mullu Wongel (Full Gospel), Meserete Kristos
(Christ is the Foundation-Menonite), Mehrete Eyesus Evangelical Church,
Berhane Hiwot Church of Eritrea, Philadelphia Church of Eritrea, New
Covenant Church, Rhema (from Ethiopia) etc. etc. the missionary groups
were just as many. At one point there were 36 groups…
In the entire history of Eritrea, the only "religious conflict" happened
during the British Administration, when individuals in that
Administration deliberately and maliciously sought to bring conflict
amongst Christians and Moslems in Eritrea. Astier Almedom describes one
such incident, a very bloody incident, in her paper "Re-reading the
Short and Long-Rigged History of Eritrea 1941–1952 : Back to the
"...on Wednesday 28 August 1946, the day of Eid (Feast at the end of the
Islamic fasting month of Ramadan) a fight broke out in Abba Shaul, the
poorest part of the Eritrean quarters of Asmara, in which one Sudanese
man died and a few others were injured. As soon as the news of the death
reached their barracks, about 70 Sudanese soldiers "careered murderously
through Asmara´s native quarter armed with weapons ransacked from the
armoury"…Predominantly Christian residential areas were targeted and
those who did not wear a turban or an amulet or had the Coptic cross
tattooed on their foreheads (as was common among Orthodox Christian
women) were dragged out of their homes, lined up, and executed on the
streets of Asmara. Ullendorff (1988) noted that this happened between 5
and 6 pm, and that he and his wife had heard the sound of "heavy
machine-gun fire, loud and prolonged. As soon as we realized that
something pretty serious was happening we went to the Senior Officer´s
Mess, less than five minutes´ walk from the Hamasien Hotel the Massacre
which lasted about two hours claimed the lives of 46, leaving about 70
wounded; of which 3 of the dead and 13 of the wounded were Sudanese
[possibly victims of ´friendly fire´, as there were no records of
Eritreans firing back]..."
In addition, during Eritrea´s 30-year long struggle for independence,
Christians and Moslems lived and fought together to liberate Eritrea.
Even though there were efforts to disrupt and divide the people between
ethnic and religious lines, these efforts were immediately recognized
and thwarted.
So what is the problem today? For that, I think it is easier to take a
look at how these new churches are being established and what their
goals are. We will take a look at one of the churches that was
established in the early 40s and one that was formed in the 60s. I chose
these two because the missionaries involved with these two churches have
written extensively about them, making it easy for me to illustrate the
problem. Just because the churches were established way before Eritrea´s
independence doesn´t mean that they are good for Eritrea, or that they
ever had the best interests of the people of Eritrea, as one shameless
Eritrean scholar-for-rent suggested in one of his recent posts.
For example, in Africa, the Assemblies of God (AG) had over 245
missionaries in 50 countries. There are 49585 Assemblies of God churches
and preaching centers, 48448 national and lay ministers, 232 Bible
schools and 11964 Bible school students established in Africa. This
mission operates all over Africa and is primarily responsible for the
huge number of "churches" mushrooming all over Africa. Here are the
staggering numbers :
The Burkina Faso fellowship formed in 1944 and is the largest church in
the nation of the 6,000-plus churches and preaching points in that
country. Besides emphasizing home missions to the nation´s 58 distinct
tribal groups, the Fellowship has sent and supported missionaries to
Niger, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Guinea, and Belgium.
In Tanzania the focus is on reaching the nation´s 160 cultural groups
and 120 tribes. Its concerted church planting strategy and
cross-cultural home missions training have been significant in the
fellowship´s growth. In 1980, TAG consisted of 275 churches and
preaching points. Today that number has mushroomed to more than 3,200
with at least 100 churches in Dar es Salaam, the capital. Nearly 500,000
adult believers attend AG churches each week.
First introduced to Kenya in 1921 and today nearly 3,200 churches and
preaching points have been planted around the nation.
In Nigeria the church´s growth is said to grow at approximately 400
churches yearly. There are more than 10,000 churches and preaching
points, and the Nigerian church is the largest AG fellowship in Africa.
The Nigerian AG has been instrumental in the development of the
Pentecostal church in Niger.
Let us take a look at AG in Eritrea.
Jerry Falley and Maxine Falley are two American missionaries with the
Assemblies of God who have written about their "adventure" in Eritrea.
In their story they tell how Eritrea was chosen by these American
"...A month earlier, Eritrea had been recognized by the United Nations
as the newest African Republic. Following 30 years of guerrilla warfare,
it appeared the society would be fertile soil for church planting. Since
the Assemblies of God had not yet entered Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sudan, I
asked to survey those three countries. My Area Director agreed… God
threw a curve ball and turned me toward the horn of Africa… On my flight
from Nairobi, Kenya to Eritrea, I spent one week in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia which was a wonderful introduction to the horn of
Africa…Staying at a missions´ guesthouse, I met a man who had just come
from Eritrea. He kindly recommended a hotel in Asmara and gave me the
telephone number of Kuflu Meskel, chairman of the Board of Elders at the
Full Gospel Church and a mathematics professor at Asmara University..."
Soon both Jerry and Maxine Falley were in Eritrea. They say that their
primary mission was to work with the un-reached populations-the Afar,
Beja, and Rashaida they also knew that without a national link, they
could not do what they wanted to do. They established a link with the
Full Gospel Church in Eritrea through correspondence, a visit and then
by providing for the Church. Falley wrote that the mission had provided
half $4500 of the $9000 needed to buy a large tent that was sent to
Eritrea for the Church´s use. The balance of $4500 was raised by the
local Church members. Falley wrote that the check for payment for the
tent was brought from Asmara by an Eritrean American. Falley also writes
about the Church in Eritrea and its needs.
Falley says the Chairman of the Full Gospel Church told him:
"...We need training. Training that goes beyond a formal Bible school
and teaches us how to share the gospel with other cultures, especially
the groups in the lowlands of Eritrea..."
Two months later, the School of Leadership Training was birthed. A
shipping container in the church yard served as a classroom and 21
Eritrean students enrolled for the opening class of the School of
Leadership Training.
According to Falley:
"...Full Gospel Church of Eritrea was birthed in 1965 as several
born-again believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Bible
studies grew into a young church… Then under 18 years of Communist rule
and persecution, they met covertly and emerged in free Eritrea numbering
about 250 believers…Six years later with a congregation of near 2,000
believers, a training program was being initiated. Senior pastors Habtom
and Twelode were among the students..."
In 26 years, from 1965-1991 the Church managed to get only 250 members
and yet, after independence, within 6 years, they managed to get 1750
new members… a whopping 700% increase…
The book FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: A Brief History of the Orthodox
Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart and John Muether, chronicles the
establishment of the OP church in Eritrea. It also contains information
on the missionaries in Eritrea. MYEPCE Church was initially established
in the early 40s by the American missionary Clarence Duff :
Duff decided to go to Eritrea in 1943, which at the time was under
British Military Administration. He was joined the following year by the
Rev. Charles E. Stanton and, in 1945, by Mrs. Duff, Mrs. Stanton and the
Rev. and Mrs. Francis E. Mahaffy. Three stations were established, in
Ghinda, in Arafali and in Assab. Duff wrote about the challenges he
faced in Eritrea. The work was far different from his previous
experiences. He called Eritrea a "hot, barren, rocky, Mohammedan field".
According to the book, Duff saw the need for many workers and, in
effect, two missions:
"...one to the Ethiopic Coptic [Orthodox] Church and another to the
Muslims…The mission needed long periods of laborious plowing before it
began to reap any significant fruit. Several different languages had to
be learned and relationships of trust had to be established. Several
times the mission was frustrated by painful defections of individuals
who had made what seemed were genuine professions of faith. The
persecution and ostracism faced by new converts were harsh. Ten years
would pass before the mission would realize the spiritual harvest of new
believers…The emerging church had to be strengthened through a program
of Christian education, thus heeding Christ's command in the Great
Commission to make disciples. The translation and publishing of solid
Christian literature was always a priority in the mission. Francis
Mahaffy translated portions of the New Testament into the Saho language
and produced over a dozen booklets and tracts in that language. Working
among the Coptics, Herbert Bird worked on Bible and catechism
translation into the Tigrinya language..."
In 1974 two OPC missionary nurses, Anna Strikwerda and Debbie Dortzbach
were kidnapped by members of the Eritrean Liberation Front from the
Mehreta Yesus Hospital in Ghinda. Anna Strikwerda was shot and killed
and Debbie Dortzbach was held for 26 days and released unharmed on
Saturday 22 June 1974. This is how OPC tells the story:
"...At noon, Monday, May 27, four armed men of the Eritrean Liberation
Front (ELF) invaded our Compassion of Jesus Hospital in Ghinda, Eritrea
Province, Ethiopia, and took two of our missionary nurses away with
them—Miss Anna Strikwerda, who had served at the hospital since 1966,
and Mrs. Karl (Deborah) Dortzbach, who was nearing the end of a one-year
term of service. Within minutes Miss Strikwerda had been cold-bloodedly
murdered, and within two hours Mrs. Dortzbach had been flown off in a
helicopter to a mountain hideout… On Tuesday, the day after the attack,
Anna was buried in the presence of many, many people (estimates range up
to 2,000) at a service conducted by Mr. Steltzer and participated in by
elders of the congregation. She was buried in the garden of the
The mission continued for about eighteen months but they decided to
suspend their work in 1976 when Osman Adem, a "convert" in the hospital,
was seized and never seen alive again. Immediately, the mission and the
hospital closed, ending thirty-two years of service. The remaining
missionaries returned to the United States. OPC returned to Eritrea in
1992, after Eritrea´s independence. Don and Jeanette Taws, who served
from 1958 to 1961, returned to Eritrea for three years to reestablish
the mission. The church sent Charles and Rhonda Telfer and Steve and
Jane Miller and the Church was re-established in 1995. OPC said:
"...August 1995 saw the reopening of the Mehreta Yesus Family Care
Center, at which Dr. Grietje S. Rietkerk and Lois Ooms work. In Asmara,
Steve and Jane Miller, Dirk Kievit, and Charles and Rhonda Telfer are
busily involved in all aspects of establishing and strengthening the
indigenous church..."
Lois Ohm worked in Eritrea for nearly two years training traditional
birth attendants and community health workers as well as presenting the
gospel to Muslim women. Ohm no longer works in Eritrea but is still in
Africa. Rietkerk has retired and Steve Miller is back in the USA.
Almost all the faith based groups in Eritrea had similar missions. For
instance SIM says:
"...By faith, we see SIM enlarging the kingdom of God in Eritrea by
making disciples, developing quality leaders in SIM-staffed Bible
schools, building up strong house churches, and reaching unreached
people groups. The Tigre, Bilen, Saho, Nara, Kunama, Rashaida, Beja, and
Afar are predominantly Muslim peoples and need to hear of God's
compelling love for them..."
According to SIM, the Kale Heywet Church (SIM-related) has planted 11
new churches in 5 years and sent 21 evangelists to "non-Christian and
nominally Christian areas of the country ".
Obviously, these groups had no problems "planting churches. If these are
legitimate religious groups, why not register them instead of
encouraging them to operate "underground"?
Allow me to quickly address the issue of the Jehovah Witnesses (JH) in
Eritrea as that is another issue that is repeatedly misrepresented by
the cartel and the self serving EQL. What the cartel and the EQL
conveniently forget to tell their readers is that in the United States,
members of the JH have been jailed for refusing to be drafted, during
the war. Children were expelled for not pledging allegiance to the flag
etc. etc. and parents were jailed for truancy. There is a long and
sordid list of court cases filed against and by the JH that show that
Americans were not as tolerant of JH as is being claimed today. Between
1933 and 1951 there were 18,866 arrests of American Witnesses and about
1500 cases of mob violence against them. There is a case about JH
members being forced to drink castor oil, a strong laxative, to cause
their humiliation and degradation. They were labeled "fifth columnists"
and more. Attitudes towards JH have not changed; just dampened by an
inordinate amount of legislation.
The Jehovah Witnesses came to Eritrea in the 1940s. While most of the
established religious groups in Eritrea have complied with the various
laws, there are some, like the Jehovah Witnesses who have rejected the
laws and refused to abide by them. The JH refuse to participate in
military service. Main issues which cause criticism of JH in Eritrea and
in many other countries across the globe include failed prophecies,
blood transfusions, and nationalism. In Eritrea the issue that has
brought criticism of JH is their refusal to recognize the Government of
Eritrea and refusal to abide by its laws. They also refuse to carry
Eritrean identity cards. JH believe that "they owed allegiance to no
person, flags, or nation; they owed allegiance only to Jehovah,"
therefore, they do not vote, salute the flag, or participate in military
The JH refused to participate in the 1993 Eritrean referendum and when
the Proclamation on National Service No. 82/1995 of 23 October 1995
which made national service compulsory for all Eritreans between the
ages of 18-40 was published, the JH refused to participate in military
service. In Eritrea, as in all other countries, a member of any
religious group who breaks the law will be punished as any other
individual, and cannot invoke obedience to a religious precept as a
cause for impunity. No one is punished for the sole fact of belonging to
a religious group, as the cartel wants us to believe. A Jehovah´s
Witness can be punished if he refuses to do military service in
countries where this service is compulsory and no conscientious
objection is allowed, although refusing military service is required by
his religion.
Every person has the freedom to practice any religion and manifest such
practice, but no one has the right to forcible or coercively convert
another person. Eritrea´s religious and ethnic harmony and culture of
tolerance and respect has been well established. In its April 1995
country profile on Eritrea, the US State Department´s Office of Asylum
Affairs acknowledged the peaceful coexistence and religious harmony in
Eritrea. It said:

"...There is now religious freedom throughout Eritrea, and all
denominations and faiths are permitted to practice. There is no state
religion, and no religion is supported over another. The government is
carefully balanced to reflect the virtually even composition of the
population between Muslims and Christians and is sensitive to outside
efforts to influence this even division..."

In May 2002, the Government of Eritrea once again called on all
religious groups to comply with Proclamation No. 73/1995 and took action
against those that did not comply. According to the US State Department
the Mehrete Yesus Presbyterian Church, Faith Mission Church, Seventh-day
Adventists, and Baha'i Faith each submitted a complete registration
application. The Kalehiwot, Full Gospel, Meserte Kristos, Tinsai, and
Philadelphia churches submitted registration packages that did not
include individual member names, while the Rhema Church and others
groups reportedly submitted blank registration forms. Yet, the western
media and the cartel deliberately and maliciously misrepresented that as
being some sort of "persecution of Christians". They are not victims of
"religious persecution"; they are victims of the cartel and their
mercenaries who have used them to advance other illicit and dangerous
agendas using religious freedom as a pretext.

It is very important to understand what religious freedom is, and that
it includes in it the freedom not to have one's religion targeted for
destruction. For those who have forgotten Eritrea´s struggle to preserve
Eritrea´s cultures, traditions and ethnic and are propagating the
cartel´s agenda to disrupt the peaceful coexistence in Eritrea, the
destruction wrought in India, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and other countries
ought to serve as reminders.

New Religious Movements (NRMs) have existed throughout history, but the
visibility, extent, and variety of have increased dramatically in the
last decade. From the United States to Europe, Asia and Africa, nations
that have been concerned about the mushrooming of the various NRMs and
have instituted some forms of legislation to deal with them. While some
registration processes are short, there are some that take years for
completion. In African countries where the origins and intentions of a
particular group are so hard to determine, especially if they are
foreign influenced, the bureaucracy may take years. For instance, in
Equatorial Guinea, the Assemblies of God group registered in 1987, but
it was not until 1993 that it received official recognition.

The actions taken by Eritrea were misrepresented by the cartel and its
mercenaries as being harsh, but as we will see, even the most
"democratic" and "liberal" European states have opted for additional
legislation or something close to that to handle this growing problem.
It would take another seating to address the long and ugly history of
religious persecution in the United States


In Austria the Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen was created by a federal
law in 1998. The law defines a sect as a community referring to
religious or philosophical beliefs that can endanger the life or the
health of persons, their property, or financial autonomy; the free
development of human personality; the integrity of family life; and the
free mental and physical development of children…The task of the
Bundesstelle is to provide "documentation and information about dangers
that can emerge from programmes or activities" of these sects.

Czech Republic

The 2002 law on Religious Freedom and the Position of Churches and
Religious Associations created a two-tiered system of registration for
religious organizations. To register at the first (lower) tier, a
religious group must have at least 300 adult members permanently
residing in the country. To register at the second tier, a religious
group must have membership, with the requisite signatures, equal to at
least 0.1 percent of the country's population (approximately ten
thousand persons).


The 2002 Guidelines for approval of religious organizations requires
religious groups to submit the following items: a written text of the
religion's central traditions, descriptions of its most important
rituals, a copy of the rules and regulations of the organization, a copy
of the organizational structure, and an audited financial statement, as
well as background information about the religion's leadership and each
member with a permanent address in the country. Additionally, the
organization must "not teach or perform actions inconsistent with public
morality or order."


The Government requires religious groups to petition for legal status
with the Ministries of Justice and Culture. Legal status gives religious
groups the right to act as juridical persons in the court system,
secures their standing as officially registered religious groups, and
allows them to construct schools and churches. Groups must provide
general background information and have at least 100,000 adult adherents
to qualify for registration.


Persons who wish to form a religious group must register with the
Ministry of the Interior. Registration requirements are the same for all
religious groups. Religious groups are free from taxation.


All organizations, including religious groups, must register with the
Government. To register, a group must submit its constitution to the
Registrar of Societies section of the Ministry of Labor and Home
Affairs. Any person who holds an official position in, manages, or
assists in the management of an unregistered organization is liable to a
fine of up to $166 (Pula 1,000) and/or up to 7 years in prison. Any
member of an unregistered society is liable to penalties including fines
up to $83 (Pula 500) and/or up to 3 years in prison.


It is illegal for a religious group to operate without official
recognition. To register, a religious denomination must legally qualify
as a religious congregation. The definition includes "any group of
natural persons or corporate bodies whose vocation is divine worship" or
"any group of persons living in community in accordance with a religious
doctrine." The President generally follows the recommendation of the
Minister and grants authorization by a presidential decree.


All religious groups are required to register in this predominantly
Muslim country.


Religious groups must register with the Government by submitting
documentation to the Ministry of Justice detailing the structure and
mission of the organization along with a nominal fee. Once approved, a
religious group registers formally with the Registrar General's Office.


The Government requires religious organizations to register with the
Registrar of Societies at the Ministry of Home Affairs on the mainland
and with the Chief Government Registrar on Zanzibar. Religious
organizations must have at least 10 followers to register, provide a
written Constitution, resumes of their leaders, and a letter of
recommendation from their district commissioner.


All new nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including religious
organizations, must register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs' NGO
Board. Foreign missionary groups, like foreign NGOs, must register with
the Government.


Governmental controls require the registration of religious groups. To
be eligible for registration, groups must have a unique name; possess a
constitution consistent with the country's laws; and display
compatibility with the peace, welfare, and good order of the country.
Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to operate. Violators can
face a fine and imprisonment for up to 7 years.

Hopefully, the Obama Administration will put an end to this impunity by
the cartel and its mercenaries and respect the sovereignty and
territorial integrity of all nations. The American public should stop
giving their hard earned monies to this self serving cartel and think
twice before condemning other people´s cultures and traditions. It is
about time that the public wake up and see the cartel for what they
are…abusive, self centered, greedy and most importantly-UNCHRISTIAN!

"…The missionary wants to put an end to pluralism, choice and freedom of
religion. He wants one religion, his own, for everyone and will
sacrifice his life to that cause. True freedom of religion should
involve freedom from conversion…" (David Frawley)

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!

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