AFRICA/ETHIOPIA - Entry ban in Eritrea for a Catholic delegation on a visit for religious purposes

Wednesday, 26 February 2020 religious minorities   religious freedom  

Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - An Ethiopian Catholic delegation of the highest level was stopped for 16 hours at Asmara airport (in Eritrea) and then released, but forced to return to Addis Ababa. As Fides learns, the incident occurred on Saturday, February 22, but the news was released only yesterday. The delegation was formed by His Eminence Cardinal Bérhaneyesus Demerew, by Mgr. Musie Ghebregiorghis, eparch of Emdeber, and by Abba Teshome Fikre, secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Ethiopia.
The three exponents of the Ethiopian Church were traveling to Eritrea to participate in the jubilee of the Archbishop's Church of Asmara, which celebrates its 50th anniversary and the annual feast of its patron, Kidane Méhret (Our Lady of Help). All three had passports and a regular entry visa with them. "Upon their arrival at the airport of Asmara - reads a note from the Catholic Secretariat of Ethiopia, sent to Fides - they were illegally detained for 16 hours without reason and then were forced to return to Ethiopia. Their only fault was the desire to celebrate, together with the Eritrean confreres, a religious feast".
"There is no peace violating the rights and freedoms of people and religions. We condemn the gesture committed against the Ethiopian delegation. We also express our solidarity with the Catholic Church which is in Eritrea, which lives in a very complex context".
Despite the openings linked to the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea, there is still deep mistrust between the two Countries. The Asmara regime, one of the toughest on the African continent, still demonstrates mistrust and suspicion towards religious and political personalities from Ethiopia. The hope is that the contribution of religious communities, and in particular of the Catholic Church, will be considered as a support for the peace process, a way to lower tensions, a contribution to the common good. (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 26/2/2020)