"Eriterea: Muslims Jail Christians"? Print E-mail
By Semere T. Habtemariam - May 21, 2007   

The following is a comment written in response to an article (Eriterea: Muslims Jail Christians) that appeared in The conservative Voice website. You can chacek the article here: http://www.theconservativevoice.com/article/25076.html.

Dear Editor:

It is a shame that "the voice of conservative" would publish this fabrication as worthy of news. You either must be completely ignorant about Eritrea or you're motivated by some malicious intent to instigate religious conflict in the country. I hope it is not the latter. Most likely this is a marketing gimmick to raise funds by appealing to the lowest of human emotions. Whether this is due to your ignorance or not, you've committed unpardonable offense, and I suggest that you retract the story and apologize to your readers.

Eritrea under the current regime is a place where both Christians and Muslims are equally mistreated. The regime is anything but discriminatory in its treatment of its citizens. It inflicts unprecedented misery on all Eritreans and every Eritrean is guaranteed equal opportunity under their "equal injustice clause."

America and the world could learn one or two things about religious toleration and harmonious coexistence of all the religions we inherited from our father Abraham or Ibrahim. The religious toleration in both Eritrea and Ethiopia is worth paying attention to.

Islam and the Orthodox church in Eritrea are as indigenous as it can be and they are a piece and parcel of our identity. We take pride in both of them.

Any self-respecting and proud Eritrean is aware of this and the overwhelming majority of us jealously guard this cultural balance.

Today, these two time-honored institutions are being challenged by well-funded, foreign-recruited converts who shamelessly sneer at our long-standing traditions.

What is archaic and anachronous practice to them is the bedrock of our cultural and religious identity and this collision regretfully has created some animosity among the public. If the experience of Luther protestants and Catholics is an indication, however, the new denominations have nothing to fear- with the passage of time, they will be accepted by a society that has historically shown admirable toleration.

Change is inevitable but those that are advocating change have the responsibility of operating within the parameters of the greater community. The norms of decency dictate that these new converts show some deference to our most cherished traditions and exercise restraint and patience in exerting their new-found religious identity. I echo the same sentiments aptly expressed by another Eritrean, Sal Younis, that the most appalling and pathetic thing the eyes could see is a 17 year old Eritrean Muslim telling a 70 year Eritrean Muslim how to be a Muslim.

The same is true for Christians.

The genius of our ancestors proud record of harmonious coexistence is the de-emphasis on the desire to proselytize and to openly and irresponsibly criticize each others religions. You've your father's religion and I've mine and lets live and let live was the unwritten covenant among them. These new converts, however are trying to live the apostolic era and the 'muhajreen' era and they've an insatiable desire to impose their version of Christianity and Islam on the greater community. Some are even advocating to impose a theocratic rule on a society that is evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. How appalling could they be! The good news is that they represent an insignificant portion of our society.

There are no Muslims jailing Christians as there are no Christians jailing Muslims in Eritrea. The regime is as secular as it can be and most of the people at helms of power are not practicing Christians or Muslims, if not outright atheists. Let's not forget that regime in Asmara was once a proud leftist and communist organization who preached that "religion is the opium of the people." I don't think the organization has changed. The leadership has found it expedient to adopt some liberal-democratic lingo but in reality they are neither liberal or democratic.

Any person has the right to live her/his life as s/he sees fit and no government has any right to dictate otherwise. This is not a Muslim or Christian thing, but a human thing and those of us, whether Eritreans or not, who care about humanity, must use our voice to pressure the regime in Asmara to change the evil system they've imposed on their own people. The problem in Eritrea is a dictatorial regime that has refused to operate within the established norms of decency. It is simply a rouge regime that has confused stubborness with steadfastness, rudness with straigh talk, intransigence with independence, weakness with diplomacy and foul language with the truth and the tyrant's interest with public interest. Eritrea had become, de facto, a big prison and if we've to talk about people being jailed, let's talk about the whole population. That would be to be on the side of justice and I'm sure on the side of God.

Thank you

Semere Habtemariam

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