Archbishop Antonios passed on at the early hours of today, 9th of February 2022, whilst in solitary confinement by government orders.
The world has lost a courageous and conscientious man, a religious leader of the highest calibre, never afraid to take a stand for truth and for genuine Christian faith.
Archbishop Antonios was ordained the Third Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church on 23rd April 2004 and unlawfully arrested in January 2006 for challenging the government’s interference in the internal affairs of the church.
He endured arrest for 16 years in Asmara, the Eritrean capital city, deprived of attending church service and with state agents ensuring that he gets no visitors. There was never an opportunity for him to challenge his illegal detention in a court of law. He was detained arbitrarily at the orders of the Eritrean dictator, President Isaias Afwerki. He had been deprived of all contacts with the followers of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, fellow clergymen, relatives and friends.
His imprisonment since January 2006 made him one of the longest serving prisoners of conscience of the Eritrean regime.
His courage in resisting calls by the regime to submit the church to government control and to excommunicate 3,000 members of the modernist Medhane Alem Church’s Sunday School movement, and for demanding that the President release imprisoned Christians accused of treason illegally made him the victim of prolonged persecution and enforced silencing within his own country.
The future of the Eritrean Orthodox church under the existing dictatorial regime and its new handpicked Patriarch, bypassing the independence of the synod, looks ever more endangered now that its staunchest and most courageous defender has died. The church will be very vulnerable to state interference and the government appointed yes-men will not defend its religious independence.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea appeals to the world to recognise the vital leadership demonstrated by His Holiness Archbishop Antonios, Third Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and to stand up for the independence of the Eritrean Orthodox Church from government interference. We call upon all member states of the United Nations and religious leaders worldwide to: –
- Call upon the government of Eritrea not to interfere in the affairs of any religious body in the country, and its organs such as the church schools and the church run medical clinics.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)