Eritrea officials order church closingscomment (0)
August 15, 2002
The government of Eritrea has ordered the closing of all Christian churches not affiliated with Islam and three major denominations.
According to the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), only Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches will be allowed to remain open. This action is a surprise, said WEA’s Mark Albrecht since this small, East Africa nation has a reputation of democracy and religious tolerance.
The population is almost evenly split between Christians and followers of Islam.
“Our sources in Eritrea suggest that the present action of the Eritrean government may be a reaction to pressure from the dominant Orthodox church and/or outside Muslim forces,” said Albrecht.
“This comes in the wake of what appears to be a budding revival movement occurring within the traditional Orthodox church as well as a recent outbreak of evangelical fervor within the Protestant community.” Recent reports indicate this move is unlikely to affect Southern Baptist work in the area. Albrecht also reported that evangelicalism has been growing in Eritrea, specifically among soldiers who fought a 30-year war for independence with neighboring Ethiopia.
Relations between the two nations are not friendly.
It is likely that people of influence in Eritrea’s Orthodox and Muslim communities are behind the church closings. “Orthodox church authorities are said to have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the challenge to their ancient traditional beliefs and practices posed by evangelicals within the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, and perhaps Eritrea as well,” said Albrecht.
(EP, TAB contributed)