Category : Eritrea

(RNS) Nobel-nominated Eritrean priest rescues refugees from Mediterranean

Mussie Zerai was once a refugee.

Now the 40-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Eritrea, helps migrants trapped in the North African deserts and rickety wooden boats drifting across the Mediterranean Sea.

“It is my duty and moral obligation as a priest to help these people,” Zerai said in a telephone interview. “For me it’s simple: Jesus said we must love one another as we love ourselves.”

The little-known priest, now based in Rome and Switzerland, was among this year’s nominees for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Pope Francis. (The prize, announced Friday, was awarded to the National Dialogue Quartet, which helped build a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia.)

Zerai runs a center that receives calls from distressed migrants who have fled their countries in hopes of finding a better life in Europe. He relays refugees’ GPS coordinates to coast guard and naval authorities so they can launch rescue operations.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Eritrea, Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Violence

(Zenit) An Interview on Religious Persecution in Eritrea

Q: Although reliable estimates are hard to come by, can you tell us a little bit about the religious landscape now in Eritrea?

[Habtu] Ghebre-Ab: The Eritrean people are very religious. Religion is an integral part of the lives of the people and Christianity and Islam have co-existed freely for centuries. Today, of the 4 million people, more or less 50% of the population is Christian and the other half belong to Islam. The Orthodox Church, being of course the largest Christian faith in Eritrea and Ethiopia, accounts for almost 95% of the Christian population.

Q: A Freedom House Report states: “Eritrea is a nation in a perpetual state of emergency, under siege by its own leaders with a population denied the most basic freedoms of speech, assembly, press and religious practice.” What does this mean for Christians today in Eritrea?

Ghebre-Ab: What it means for Christians is that, although the so-called minority churches were proscribed, beginning in May 2002, they have since been literally criminalized, their members and leaders thrown in jail and they are not allowed to worship in Eritrea at all.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Eritrea