Fr. Mussie Zerai was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. He’s worked tirelessly for more than 10 years for the most vulnerable people in Africa: people suffering from hunger, war, or tyranny, such as people in his own country, Eritrea.
Fr. MUSSIE ZERAI
“Since the war with Ethiopia began in 1998, they’ve established a martial law that forces young men and women to serve in the military indefinitely. There are more than 300,000 people obligated to serve in the army. They know when to start, but not when to finish. My brother served in the military for more than 24 years. He began in 1994 and finished only when he escaped. He asked to end his service when he was almost 50 years old, but they would not let him. They took the best years of his life. This is why many young people flee the country because they do not see a future for themselves.”
The military repression that has subdued Eritrea for 28 years has diminished individual freedoms, such as religious freedom. The last coup by the communist and aetheist government, has particularly hindered the Christian community.
Fr. MUSSIE ZERAI
“Between June and July, there was an increase in arbitrary arrests of Christian groups, especially among Pentecostals. This persecution against Christians isn’t new; it has been going on for a while.”
“In the last two months, the government has siezed 29 health centers from the Catholic Church. It has also closed seven schools run by the Church, which is what we feared. The Church has about 50 schools and 100 preschools. If this continues, all the schools are in danger. This would severely limit the religious freedom of the Church.”
Without the freedom of movement, press, conscience, or religion, the future of many Eritreans lies in leaving the country. They would have to do so illegally, because Eritrea does not grant passports to men under 50 or women under 40.
Many die in the desert, others in the Mediterranian. Some make it to Europe after going through detention centers in Libya, where torture for Christians is even worse. Fr. Zerai knows this because his telephone number is posted in many of these centers, in case of emergency. This is why he is called “the angel of refugees.”
FR. MUSSIE ZERAI
“There are many Christians that experience double suffering because they are discriminated against within these places. Muslims receive one kind of treatment, and Christians, another. Solidarity between themselves helps the situation. They aid one another by sharing food, water or soap. In all the desperation, it’s these tiny gestures that help them feel solidarity.”
Fr. Zerai’s constant criticism of what is happening in his country and the consequences of its military regime have earned him the prohibition of returning to Eritrea. If he did so, he would be imprisoned immediately.