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World View: Eritrean Government Laughably Uses Christian Patriarch as Show Prop

ASMARA, ERITREA: An Orthodox priest holds a cross during the Meskel festival, the biggest Orthodox ceremony, 27 September 2004 in Asmara in Eritrea. Thousands of people gather each year in the Eritrean capital to celebrate the finding of Christ's cross by Saint Helen, some 1700 years ago. AFP PHOTO NICOLAS …
NICOLAS GERMAIN/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN J. XENAKIS

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Eritrean government laughably uses Orthodox Christian Patriarch as show prop
  • Eritrea’s Christian crackdown centers on Medhane Alem Orthodox Church
  • The violence of generational Awakening eras

Eritrean government laughably uses Orthodox Christian Patriarch as show prop

This Medhane Alem Orthodox Christian Church in Ethiopia is carved directly out of rock
This Medhane Alem Orthodox Christian Church in Ethiopia is carved directly out of rock

Patriarch Abune Antonios, the 90-year-old former head of the Eritrean Orthodox Christian Church, was trotted out from government prisons on Sunday to attend a Mass for the first time since he was arrested in 2007.

The Eritrean government, which is possibly the most vicious and repressive government in the world, has been under international pressure from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, the French government, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the European Parliament.

So they let Antonios out of prison for the first time in ten years and let him participate in the Mass on Sunday. Seeing the patriarch for the first time in ten years was considered a blessing by the worshippers, but the whole show was really a farce, and probably a humiliation to Antonios. They forbade him from saying a word and, after the Mass, they bundled him back to prison. These morons in the Eritrean government think that if the 90-year-old Patriarch Antonios were allowed to say anything, then it would bring down their government. What idiots. Christian Post and Independent Catholic News

Eritrea’s Christian crackdown centers on Medhane Alem Orthodox Church

In 2004, Eritrea’s government decided that it disapproved of the religious beliefs of the Medhane Alem Orthodox Church, an evangelical offshoot of Eritrea’s Orthodox Christian Church. They arrested three priests without charges and sentenced by a secret administrative procedure to five years each.

At that time, Patriarch Abune Antonios was head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Antonios protested the detention of the three priests, and in general for the government’s interference in church affairs. The government demanded that Antonios close the Medhane Alem church and that he excommunicate its 3,000 members.

In January 2006, Antonios was notified that he had been dismissed from office, and on May 27, 2007, he was arrested and imprisoned in an unknown location. The Eritrean government has placed people of their own choosing in charge of the church.

The Eritrean government has always persecuted Christians, but in recent months that persecution has become particularly vicious. Police have been going from house to house, demanding to know the occupants’ religious beliefs, and arresting them if they give the wrong answer. It is believed that hundreds of Orthodox Christians have been arrested since May.

So the worshippers were thrilled on Sunday to see Patriarch Antonios for the first time in ten years, but you really have to laugh at the Eritrean government bringing out Antonios on Sunday for Mass, apparently thinking that doing so will make up for the vicious, repressive treatment of huge numbers of Orthodox Christians for no reason whatsoever.

Eritrea has one of the poorest human rights records in the world. Anyone can be arrested and tortured at any time on the unsupported charge of criticizing someone in the government, or for attending the wrong religious institution.

What is unique about Eritrea is the extent of military repression as practiced through a strictly-enforced conscription regimen and martial culture. Eritrea’s army is about 600,000 strong, which is one tenth of the population of about 6 million. Few countries anywhere, other than North Korea or the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, have one tenth of their population in the army. Some people are forced to serve in the armed forces until age 50.

Many people are forced to work at government jobs essentially as slaves. The average monthly salary is $12. If someone escapes to Europe as a migrant to earn money, the remittances that the migrant sends back to his family are heavily taxed by the state.

That’s why many of the migrants and refugees that are crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy are from Eritrea. Christian Solidarity Worldwide and UNHCR (2-Mar-2015) and PJ Media (8-July) and Missionary Network News

The violence of generational Awakening eras

A generational Awakening era begins about 15-20 years after the end of the previous generational crisis war, at the time when the first generation of children with no personal memory of the war come of age and begin to make themselves heard.

In their foundational work on generational theory in the 1980s and early 1990s, William Strauss and Neil Howe glorified generational Awakening eras as times for the birth of new ideas for society and even new religions. Strauss and Howe’s work was limited to Britain and America since the 1400s, and their characterization of Awakening eras seems to make sense in those cases.

But as I’ve worked on Generational Dynamics for fifteen years, and have extended generational theory to apply to all countries and societies at all times in history, I’ve found their characterization of Awakening eras to be wrong most of the time.

In the last 10-20 years we have seen one example after another where Awakening eras are a time of violence. In Syria, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Burundi, Thailand, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Cameroon, and so forth, and now Eritrea, the group that wins the civil war takes power and then uses torture, massacres and genocide during the Awakening era to keep from giving up power, reneging on promises of free elections made during the settlement of the civil war. What makes this violence different from the crisis war is that, in the crisis wars, the two populations really want to kill each other, while in the Awakening eras, the war-weary populations just want peace, while government leaders perpetrate everything from repression to jailings, torture, and genocidal massacres, depending on the country.

As I described last year in a generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea, mostly Christian Ethiopia and mostly Muslim Eritrea had an extremely bloody generational crisis war with heavy involvement by the Soviet Union. The war ended in May 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Today, Eritrea is in a generational Awakening era, and the government is close to a state of hysteria over the possibility that Christians might hold a prayer meeting, so they are using house-to-house searches, jailings, and torture to combat a threat that exists only in their fantasies.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad is conducting a genocidal war against Sunni Muslims. In Burundi, the president Pierre Nkurunziza, a Christian Hutu, is conducting torture, sexual violence, arbitrary jailings, targeted assassinations and summary executions against his political opposition, almost all from the Christian Tutsi tribe. In Thailand, there has been sporadic violence by the army, backing the “yellow shirt” market-dominant light-skinned Thai-Chinese elite minority against the the “red shirt” dark-skinned Thai-Thai indigenous ethnics. And just today (Tuesday), South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir declared a new three-month state of emergency, as he pursues tribal violence designed to keep himself in power. The situations in the other countries listed above is similar. Reuters

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Eritrea, Eritrean Orthodox Christian Church, Abune Antonios, Medhane Alem Orthodox Church, Ethiopia, Awakening eras, Syria, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Burundi, Thailand, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Cameroon
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