Saturday, 4 February 2017

Eritrea: The Medhane Alem movement in Eritrea, including religious affiliation and history; treatment of members by authorities (2003-February 2015) [ERI105095.E]

source  https://www.ecoi.net/local_link/307642/445336_de.html
Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

The US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 indicates that the government's record on religious freedom during 2013 was "poor" (US 28 July 2014, 1). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor of comparative religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem similarly indicated that the situation with regard to religious freedom in Eritrea is "awful" (26 Feb. 2015). According to the International Religious Freedom Report for 2004, the government enacted a decree in May 2002 by which all religious bodies had to "register or cease all religious activities"; as a result, the government closed down all religious facilities not belonging to the four sanctioned religions (US 15 Sept. 2004). Similarly, International Christian Response (ICR), an international organization that "provides spiritual and material assistance for persons who are persecuted as a result of their Christian beliefs" (ICR n.d.), said that all religious bodies in Eritrea except the four who registered in May 2002 were illegal (ibid. 5 May 2014). The International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 indicates that the four religious groups officially registered with the government are the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea; churches belonging to other religious groups remained closed during the time of the reporting period (US 28 July 2014, 6).

2. Medhane Alem Movement

Sources indicate that the Medhane Alem Orthodox Church is a renewal movement within the Eritrean Tewahedo Orthodox Church [Eritrean Orthodox Church] (Oriental Orthodox Church 1 Jan. 2013; BBC 27 Sept. 2007; Professor 26 Feb. 2015). The movement reportedly emerged in the 1970s (WEA 24 May 2006). According to Amnesty International (AI) in 2005, the Medhane Alem movement, which means "'Saviour of the World'," is a bible study group of the Eritrean Orthodox Church "centered on the Medhane Alem church in Asmara" (Dec. 2005, 5).
The International Religious Freedom Report for 2006 indicates that in 2004, the Eritrean government closed down a Medhane Alem Orthodox congregation because it disapproved of the group's religious beliefs and practices (US 15 Sept. 2006). The report also indicates that in October 2004, the government detained three Medhane Alem "organizers" without charges (ibid.). In a 2005 report on religious persecution in Eritrea, AI similarly reports that three Orthodox priests, who were leading members of the Medhane Alem bible study group, were detained by authorities (AI 7 Dec. 2005, 12). The same source indicates that the detained priests were a psychiatrist named Futsum Gebrenegus, a physician named Tekleab, and a theologian named Gebremedhin (ibid.). AI further indicates that the three detainees were reportedly sentenced by a secret administrative procedure to five years each and were serving their sentences at the Sembel civilian prison in Asmara at the time of the report (ibid.). Further and corroborating information about the sentencing of the three priests could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources report that the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, was stripped of his functions by the Eritrean government and placed under house arrest in 2005 for protesting the detention of the three Medhane Alem Orthodox priests (BBC 27 Sept. 2007; AI 7 Dec. 2005, 9) and the government's interference with church affairs (ibid.). International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 indicates that Abune Antonios remained under house arrest in 2013 (US 28 July 2014, 5). For further information on the treatment of Orthodox Church members in Eritrea see Response to Information Request ERI104541.
Sources indicate that on 12 February 2005, 15 women belonging to a Medhane Alem group in Keren were detained and held for approximately one month for "holding a home prayer meeting in Keren" (AI Dec. 2005, 13; US 8 Nov. 2005). The International Religious Freedom Report for 2005 indicates that the women were required to sign a document prior to release stating that "they would not take part in their congregations' activities in the future" (ibid.). Sources indicate that individuals of minority faiths are coerced into signing documents renouncing their faith (Open Doors 13 Apr. 2009, 3; US 15 Sept. 2006), and in cases where they refuse to sign, authorities ask detainees' relatives to sign on their behalf (ibid.).
Sources indicate that on 19 February 2005, more than 20 students and 5 teachers of the Medhane Alem movement were detained in Asmara (ibid. 8 Nov. 2005; AI 7 Dec. 2005, 13). Sources report that the students were released but the five teachers, who were also instructors at the University of Asmara, were sent to the Mai Sewa [Mai Serwa] military prison (ibid.; US 8 Nov. 2005). The International Religious Freedom Report for 2005 reports that the students were released the following day (ibid.), while AI reports that the youngest of the students, who ranged in ages from 2 to 18 years old, were released the same day, while the older students were released over the next few weeks (7 Dec. 2005).
The Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive (EHREA), a web archive of human rights violations committed by the Eritrean government since 1991 (EHREA n.d.), indicates that, according to Compass Direct News, a news service that provides information on "situations and events facing Christians persecuted for their faith" (Eurasia Review n.d.), security officers went house to house in Mendefera on 25 October 2006 arresting people belonging to the Pentecostal Church and the Medhane Alem movement (EHREA 24 Jan. 2007). According to Compass Direct News, the police had a list of names of Christians belonging to these churches and arrested 150 people on that day and the next, including nursing mothers who were forced to leave their infants (ibid.). Additional and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The US International Religious Freedom Report for 2006 indicates that more than sixty members of the Medhane Alem movement were threatened by Eritrean authorities in 2006 for having support "a petition protesting the government's intervention in the Orthodox Church"; they were asked to withdraw their support for the petition (US 15 Sept. 2006).
According to the Professor, the Medhane Alem movement was shut down by Eritrean authorities around 2005 or 2006 and, to his knowledge, as of 26 February 2015 that movement "has not been reopened" (26 Feb. 2015). Additional and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 7 December 2005. Eritrea: Religious Persecution. [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 27 September 2007. Tanya Datta. "Eritrean Christians Tell of Torture." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive (EHREA). 24 January 2007. Faith McDonnell. "Update on Outrages: Eritrea Continues Campaign Against Christians." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
_____. N.d. "Home." [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015]
Eurasia Review. N.d. "Compass Direct News." [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015]
International Christian Response (ICR). 5 May 2014. "Eritrea Again Persecutes Christians of Officially Recognized Faith." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
_____. N.d. "Who We Are." [Accessed 24 Feb. 2015]
Open Doors. 13 April 2009. "United Nations Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review - Eritrea." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
Oriental Orthodox Church. N.d. "The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 26 February 2015. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
United States (US). 28 July 2014. Department of State. "Eritrea." International Religious Freedom Report for 2013. [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
_____. 15 September 2006. Department of State. "Eritrea." International Religious Freedom Report for 2006. [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
_____. 8 November 2005. Department of State. "Eritrea." International Religious Freedom Report for 2005. [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
_____. 15 September 2004. Department of State. "Eritrea." International Religious Freedom Report for 2004. [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]
World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). 24 May 2006. "Eritrea: Severe Persecution is Expanding." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The following were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response: Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church – Debre Medhanit Medhane Alem.
Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Diocese of Eritrean Orthodox Church in North America; Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church of St. Mary in Chicago; Ethiopian Orthodox Church – Medhane Alem Parish in York, Ontario; Medhane Alem Eritrean Orthodox Church in Washington, DC; Medhane Alem Evangelical Church in Seattle; Norwegian Church Aid; Saint Mary Eritrean Orthodox Church in Bay Area, California.
Internet sites, including: Africa Review; Aid to the Church in Need; AllAfrica; Asmarino; Bloomberg; Christian Science Monitor; Droit.Afrique.com; ecoi.net; Eritrea РEmbassy in Washington, DC; Evangelical Alliance Foundation; Factiva; Freedom House; Harvard University РPluralism Project; Jeune Afrique; Release Eritrea; Reporters sans fronti̬res; The Tablet; Telegraph; United Nations РHigh Commisioner for Refugees, RefWorld; United States РCommission on International Religious Freedom; World Watch Monitor.

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