July 25, 2013
39 Eritrean Christian Students Imprisoned for Their Faith
According to a statement on the official Eritrean Ministry of Information website, 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake graduated on July 13. According to the announcement, all these students had successfully completed eight months of academic studies and four months mandatory military training. These students will now proceed to Senior Secondary school to complete grade 12. A group of 39 students, including 11 female students of the same intake who also completed the training, have been excluded from the graduation ceremony and have instead been placed under harsh military punishment at Sawa Military training center. Sources told Open Doors that the arrests came as a result of the students’ “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ.” The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water. Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they “fail to renounce Christ.” Since the beginning of the year Christians belonging to groups outside of the government sanctioned Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches have faced a widespread arrest campaign. More than 200 men and women of various ages have been arrested since the beginning of the year and are being detained without charges under harsh circumstances. One 85-year-old woman is being held in a shipping container and has contracted pneumonia. She is still being refused medical attention because she will not agree to camp authorities’ terms for receiving medicine. Military training forms part of the Eritrean curriculum. But after completing school all Eritreans must also do national service.
Open Doors’ Micro Credit Program Makes Big Impact in Northern Iraq
From a one room apartment with three kids to a big house full of children: Aswad and his family are one of the many Christian families in Iraq helped by a micro credit from Open Doors. They now run a successful kindergarten. It’s a happy chaos in the kindergarten. Kids are running around, throwing balls and sitting on little swings. How many kids exactly? Aswad puts his hands in the air and starts smiling from ear to ear: “I don’t know” then he looks at his wife Eshal for help: “We have about 60 children from different ages now,” she adds. Aswad is visibly proud to be to owner of this joyful place. It’s hard to imagine that only five years ago, he and his family were living in a one room apartment; broke and unemployed. Like many Christian refugees in Kurdish North Iraq, Aswad’s family fled the violence in the Baghdad area. The Kurdish area is a relatively safe place for the Christian minority, but it also has disadvantages, explains Open Doors fieldworker William: “Most Christians don’t speak Kurdish, the local language. This makes it very hard to find a job.” Most of the Kurdish workers have a job at the government, but for the Arabic speaking Christian refugees, working at the government is impossible. For Aswad, this was no different. He couldn’t find a job and was desperately searching for a way to feed his family. “One of the few possibilities to make a living as a refugee is to start your own business,” says William “but you can’t start a business if you don’t have money. That’s why Open Doors is giving out micro credits.” It’s a simple procedure: the refugee hands in a business plan and if it’s approved, he receives a small starting budget. Right after his business starts running, he starts paying off his debt. “Most of them pay off their debt in a short period of time,” says William. “We have helped many people starting taxi services, hair salons and mini-markets.”
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).