The Tragedy in Lampedusa and the words of Wisdom:
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
First I express my condolence to the families of those who perished at sea only two kilometres away from the Island of Lampedusa, Italy
This is a chilling and harrowing tragedy which touched the conscience of the international community. Pope Francis was the first to express his outrage and sympathy. Furthermore he held a special memorial in Vatican on Sunday 6, 2013 in the presence of thousands of worshipers. Perhaps that day could be the day of remembrance to take place every year. On its part the Italian Government and people showed an incredible sadness as well as respect to the dead by providing every possible support to retrieve the bodies from the sea and put them in coffins for proper burial. That must go into the annals of history as brotherhood building blocks between the people of Italy and Eritrea. The sympathy goes to the extent that the Italian government declared a day of mourning and lowered the Italian flag at half-mast.
The London candle Light Vigil:
On 5/10/13 a Candle Light vigil was held In London at Hide Park Speakers Corner. During the vigil there were speeches, poems and spiritual songs. In the middle of reading a poem Elsa Chyrum the outspoken human rights advocate burst into tears unable to continue with the reading for some time. In that moment in time I struggled to hold back my tears and saw people on my right and left in the same condition. Kedijah Ali – (another activist) expressed the pain and sorrow of mothers in poetry terms. It was very moving. After the vigil I ran into her and she said to me, “I can’t help thinking how the mothers are enduring the tragedy befallen on them. For two days I can’t stop crying and I wrote the poem in order to ease my own pain”.
Such was the outrage, the sympathy, the anger, the extreme sadness and helplessness of Eritrean Diaspora (those on the opposition, supporters of PFDJ and the silent majority) as they attend candle light vigils all over the world in parks, churches, mosques and in private homes. It is for the first time that all Eritreans, divided and fragmented as they are were united in grief and sorrow.
Aba Shinuda Eyob and his words of wisdom:
One of the speakers was Abba Shinuda. His talk is in Assenna.com for everyone to listen to. But what impressed me is his analysis of the underlying reasons why Eritreans at home and in Diaspora found themselves in such helpless situations. It can be summarised as fear, greed, selfishness “a culture of I don’t care about others “and indifference to the injustices that is driving people to flee Eritrea. All these attitudes gave rise to all kinds of divisions be it religion, region and ethnicity that prevents Eritreans to stand up to the challenges presented by PFDJ.
Abba Shinuda pleaded to change our behaviours to care for each other, to be tolerant and help those who are in dire needs such as those languishing in refugees’ camps in Sudan and Ethiopia.
He pleaded with us to turn ourselves to God to help us to awaken our authentic self and stands up to injustices with unity and love for each other. He also prayed to God so that he whispers to the ears of the PFDJ authorities to come to their senses and stop oppressing the Eritrean people. His advice was worth listening it was words of wisdom.
Abba Shinuda radiated a rare quality of spiritual courage absent in many religious leaders be it Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Many Eritreans as soon as they get indefinite leave to stay in the United Kingdom do not bother to help those who they left behind and are not fortunate enough to make to safety, to the Promised Land. Amazingly there is no sign of them to speak out for those who kept in container, in various underground prisoners in Eritrea or to raise funds to help those in dire need in the refugees’ camps or to rise up to denounce trafficking in Sinai/Egypt.
Let the advice of Abba Shinuda shine a light over the soul of Eritrean religious leaders and followers to adhere to the teaching of God to be truthful and charitable and pray to give them strength to do so. Unfortunately not everyone who goes to churches pray to get strength and power to overcome fear but to hide to avoid standing up to the challenges of injustice. It is an escape route. They don’t want to fight and let God do the work for them. They forget that God helps to those who help themselves. Had things work that way we would have had no people like Archbishop Romero who was assassinated by the security forces for fearlessly speaking up for the poor and Sister Maria Teresa who devoted her life to serve the poor. Such people are immortalized and they are an inspiration and the Kingdom of God belongs to them not to hypocrites.
The incident in refugee camps in Ethiopia:
There was an incident in the refugee camps in Mai Aiani and Adi Hurush, at the time the refugee held vigil in commemoration of those who drowned in the sea. It was reported that the Eritrean refugees staged a demonstration to express their frustration with UNHCR for the delay in processing their asylum application to a third country. Furthermore they protested against the corruption by the camp authorities where certificates of asylum granted to Eritrean refugees are given to Ethiopians. It was reported that the police opened fire killing one and wounding some. There were also several arrests.
I will not dismiss any corruption in the camps and it is a legitimate demand to ask to end it. Who said Ethiopia is corruption free for that matter who said Africa is free of corruption.
Corruption is endemic in the fabric of the Ethiopian Society, during the reign of Emperor Haile Sellasie, the fascist Dergue and even today. To the credit of today’s Ethiopian Government they are aware of that. Nowadays we read that Ethiopian Government is taking action against corrupted high officials in order to uproot corruption from the society, unheard in the Ethiopian body politics during the reign of the Emperor and the Fascist Military regime. It will take a long time though. .
But to make a political capital out of the incident and go to the extent of asking people to ask for signatures demanding protection for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia carried out by people in Diaspora is irresponsible and absurd. There is no doubt about it they are indeed protected in Ethiopia. It has one use only to take away the good will of the Ethiopian people and Government for going extra mile such as providing scholarships to Eritrean refugees to pursue higher studies in their universities. There are many other forms of support as well.
PFDJ and EPRDF are in a state of no peace no war and both do send infiltrators and the Ethiopian Government, I believe would have tight security presence in the camps to identify any PFDJ infiltrators and they may have overreacted this time especially if it was unplanned demonstration against UNHCR and Ethiopian authorities.
In an open letter to the Ethiopian Authority ICER and Habesha Agecy have asked the Ethiopian Authorities to form an investigating body to look into what was wrong on October 5 and 6. (Asmarino.com dated 17/10/13). This is a responsible handling of the situations which seeks engagement and enquiry and not exploits it to undermine the support Ethiopia gives to Eritrean refugees.
The way forward is to transform unity in grief and sorrow into action
The magic word has become “unity” so that the united energy of the Eritrean people can be channelled into action for democratic change. This will end the influx of refugees and enormous brain drain out of Eritrea.
At the moment the focus must be on the opposition. They do blame each other for being an obstacle to unity. Blaming others but not one self has become a contagious disease among Eritreans. Such behaviour has its genesis on TV-ERE. For years TV-ERE has blamed USA and Ethiopia for everything that is going wrong in Eritrea. Therefore PFDJ is not to be blamed for the gross human right violations that is impoverishing Eritrea and is driving the people particularly the youth to exile in their thousands. It is America and Ethiopia to be blamed. Even to those who perished in Lampedusa TV-ERE put the blame squarely on Washington.
We have to stop seeing ourselves as victims making others or circumstances responsible for our misery, our divisions, hostility for each other that gave rise to our being weak and so powerless. This realization in itself represents a considerable degree of liberation for we can know that our destiny lies in our hands, to a very great extent, and that we can change our lives by changing ourselves (our distorted attitude) first.
Democratic Eritrea will prevail