Catholic Church Upsets Group
Sanders, Carol, Winnipeg Free Press
-- Rented parish hall to Eritrean regime -- Locals warned officials of abuses
A human rights group is disappointed in Winnipeg's Roman Catholic Church for allowing a regime notorious for religious persecution to rent a parish hall for a "festival."
"I feel sad at the way they handled the situation," said Bereket Yohannes, a member of the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba.
Yohannes said St. Joseph's Roman Catholic church in the North End shouldn't have rented the hall for the event. "We told them these are the agents of a government who incarcerated the patriarch, closed the churches and won't allow freedom of worship," Yohannes said.
In 2002, the Eritrean government banned religious activities other than those administered by four registered organizations: Sunni Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea.
The Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, Abune Antonios, has been under house arrest since he criticized the government for interfering in church activities and for persecuting evangelical churches. In May, demonstrators at the Eritrean Embassy in London marked the 10th anniversary of mass detentions of Eritrean Christians. In June, a United Nations report slammed the Eritrean regime for supporting groups that destabilize the Horn of Africa. The report said the regime finances groups linked to terror by staging cultural festivals throughout the diaspora.
This summer, festivals were staged in Canadian cities with the Eritrean consul to Canada, an Eritrean government official, and members of its military Walta Band. In Winnipeg, the human rights group learned about the festival a week before it was held Saturday at St. Joseph's parish hall. It contacted the Roman Catholic church and asked administrators to refuse to host the event.
"As a church, they should've made a decision based on the values of the church," said Yohannes. "We notified them and they had time to reverse the erroneous decision they made."
Under UN sanctions, members of Eritrea's ruling party are supposed to be refused entry into Canada. …