Protests on behalf of Eritrean Christians
Staff from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and some 30 supporters have protested outside the Eritrean Embassy at the increasing persecution of Christians in that country.
As part of the protest, David Drew MP (Labour, Stroud) handed a letter of protest, signed by a cross party group of MPs and Peers, to the Eritrean Ambassador and was invited in for a 45 minute meeting.
The protest was timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day and to register the concerns of CSW and Eritrean Christiansí about the way some Christians are treated in their country.
A giant padlocked bible formed the centrepiece of the protest with supporters holding placards.
On 21 May 2002 the Eritrean government ordered the closure of all churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Lutheran denominations. This effectively rendered every other denomination illegal. The aim of the protest was to press for a review of this decision, which affects hundreds of thousands of Christians.
More than 300 Christians are currently in detention in Eritrea, and several have been subjected to torture as the authorities have sought to force them to renounce their beliefs. In many cases the mere possession of a Bible is seen as sufficient evidence of guilt, rendering a person vulnerable to abuse, ill-treatment and detention.
CSW has also asked supporters to write to His Excellency Mr Negassi Sengal, the Eritrean Ambassador, requesting him to urge his government to reconsider its policies with regard to demoninations which are legitimate elsewhere in the world. CSW has also worked with MPs to table an Early Day Motion to be circulated in the House of Commons for other MPs to sign.
Mervyn Thomas, CSWís Chief Executive, said: ìWe were really pleased to join with Eritreans in the UK to express our concerns about religious freedom to the Eritrean authorities."
ìThe Eritrean government must grant religious freedom to all Christians, whatever their denomination, in accordance with their own constitutional guarantees.î