Date: February 26, 2022
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:2)
It is with great sadness that we come to pray following the death of Abune Antonios, the legitimate leader of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The 94-year-old died on 9 February while still under house arrest, where he had been confined for the last 15 years of his life.
Today we give thanks for his life and his commitment to justice, and pray for an outpouring of justice in Eritrea.
A man of deep integrity
Patriarch Antonios was a man of deep integrity who repeatedly resisted interference in church affairs from the Eritrean government – a regime deemed to have committed crimes against humanity since 1991.
Most notably, he refused to expel 3,000 members of the Orthodox renewal movement (Medhane Alem) and protested against the detention of three priests from the renewal movement in 2004.
‘The patriarch never compromised’
Patriarch Antonios was eventually removed from office illegally and replaced by Bishop Dioscoros of Mendefera, a government-approved clergyman. Meanwhile, the legitimate patriarch was placed under house arrest.
Our Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, ‘Despite 16 years of unremitting pressure, mistreatment, and defamation, the patriarch never compromised, even when it could have led to his reinstatement.’
We pray that the international community will honour Patriarch Antonios’s courageous stand for freedom by reviving efforts to secure the release of the three Orthodox priests, as well as the tens of thousands of others who are arbitrarily detained because of their conscience, religion or belief.
In summary, please pray:
- Giving thanks for the life of Patriarch Antonios and the legacy he leaves behind.
- That his name will be remembered and inspire many more Eritrean citizens and members of the international community to stand up for justice in Eritrea.
- For the immediate and unconditional release of the three Orthodox priests, as well as all other prisoners of conscience.