Published On: Sun, Sep 24th, 2017

Ruth Debesay discusses Christian persecution in Eritrea, death of Fikadu Debesay and oppression of believers

World Watch Monitor sat down with Ruth Debesay a week ago, a month after the news broke about the death of Fikadu Debesay, a prisoner who perished in the same camp as Ruth’s spouse, who is being detained for heading a non-sanctioned church in Eritrea – a Christian church.

Ruth discusses life, raising her three kids as a single mom and how being Christian even effects the kids’ education: “When a baby is born in Eritrea, the most important papers are the birth and vaccination certificates. But those mean nothing without a baptism certificate from one of the recognized churches.”

photo Simon Dean Media via Flickr

The government imprisoned Ruth’s husband and life has never been the same.

Parents can only get food vouchers, access to certain public services and admit their children to school if the parents are members of one of the state-recognized churches. Pentecostals, for example, referred to as Pentes, are .”..seen as agents of Western imperialism and those who hate the motherland,” the article notes.

During the talk with WWM, it is clear how the war on Christianity is playing out in Eritrea.

“There is not only pressure from the government, but also from society. People isolate us and make outcasts of us. They can’t wait for us to be caught worshiping in secret. In our neighborhood we constantly face pressure, so we go about our everyday life with caution and fear.”

Ruth explains how they are second-class citizens: “Even if you are able to find a job, you have to be so careful because, once they know that you are an independent Christian, they watch you closely for mistakes that would allow them to fire you.”

“Nowadays people wear religious necklaces and because we do not wear them, they label us as heretics. They intimidate the children in this way,” she says.

Since May 2002, the government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Oriental Orthodox), Sunni Islam, the Eritrean Catholic Church (a Metropolitanate sui juris), and the Evangelical Lutheran church. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process.

The Eritrean government is against what it deems as “reformed” or “radical” versions of its established religions. Therefore, alleged radical forms of Islam and Christianity, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bahá’í Faith (though the Bahá’í Faith is neither Islamic nor Christian), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and numerous other non-Protestant Evangelical denominations are not registered and cannot worship freely.

And when, at home, she talks to her children about God, she says she continuously has to stress that they can’t say anything to other people. “That is very confusing for them,” Ruth says.

“They are too young to understand what is going on and want to sing loudly and talk with friends at school about what they learn at home. One day security officers visited my house and one of my children kept singing Gospel songs. I had to run and cover her mouth with my hand.”

Ruth says she longs to see her children “grow up and be able to worship God in freedom. I have dreams for them and want them to be safe. And I fear what will happen if I am arrested. How will they cope?”

“But the love of God is stronger,” she says. “We know there is a risk but we cannot stop worshipping and praying because we need Him to overcome our difficulties. The Bible says we are supposed to love our enemies and forgive what they do to us. We are still human beings, who would love to have a better life, but we always pray for forgiveness and ask the Lord to give us what we need in life.”

UPDATE: The original post stated Ruth’s husband had died and misrepresented Fikadu Debesay. That was in error and unintentional, my apologies. – Brandon, The Dispatch

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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