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Patriarch Abuna Antonios - Photo: YouTube / Tv Sened Eritra
Photo: YouTube / Tv Sened Eritra

While the Eritrean government officially recognizes four religious groups, even members of those groups remain under heavy oppression. In 2005, the government forcibly removed the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abuna Antonios, replacing him with a government-appointed lay administrator (read more). The Patriarch has remained under house arrest ever since, stripped of all administrative duties.

Earlier this year, the 90-year-old church leader secretly released a video objecting to the leadership of the administrator, Yoftahe Dimetros, and decrying the care he was receiving. He has been living in the servants' quarters of a residence occupied by a pro-government bishop.

In an unprecedented act, the orthodox church has moved to officially excommunicate Patriarch Antonios for heresy. According to a letter signed by five of the six bishops, his recent activities -- apparently in reference to the video -- demonstrated that "his repentance was not genuine." The letter announces that the elderly church leader may live out the rest of his life in a church-owned building. This excommunication is seen as a way of silencing any further dissent and thus strengthening government control of the church.

Intercede for Eritrea's true Christ-followers, especially those being confronted with ongoing opposition from the country's leaders -- whether they be political or of a religious affiliation. May these Christians be free to practise their faith without the threat of danger or inhumane treatment. Also prayerfully uphold all who are presently suffering in prison for their faith, asking God to grant them protection and strength as they await their hopeful release.