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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06ASMARA778 2006-09-28 14:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Asmara
Cable title:  

GSE CONFISCATES KALE HIWOT CHURCH PROPERTY

Tags:   PHUM PGOV KIRF ER 
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SIPDIS

SIPDIS

LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2016
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KIRF ER
SUBJECT: GSE CONFISCATES KALE HIWOT CHURCH PROPERTY


Classified By: AMB Scott H. DeLisi, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) Continuing the pattern of government control over
social institutions, the GSE ordered the confiscation of all
of Kale Hiwot,s church property. On September 13, the leader
of another unregistered church, Reverend Zecharias Abraham
(protect) told Poloff the church received a letter the week
prior from the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, signed
by the Director of the NGO department, Emmanuel, informing
the church they must turn over all church property. Kale
Hiwot, a Serving in Mission (SIM) evangelical Protestant
mission, is one of the unregistered churches practicing in
Eritrea and has substantial properties throughout the
country. The church operates schools, kindergartens,
orphanages and other humanitarian programs.



2. (C) Rev. Zecharias said the Church leaders had asked GSE
officials for more information about the decision and even
tried to fight the Ministry,s order. According to Rev.
Zecharias, they requested a meeting with the Minster of Labor
and Social Welfare, Askalu Menkorious and were told she was
&too busy8 to meet with them. In further inquiries with the
Director of NGO Affairs, (reportedly the right hand of
Minister Askalu on NGO issues), the Director told church
leaders the Ministry would not reconsider the decision and
there would be no further discussion.



3. (C) In a meeting with Minister Askalu on September 21,
Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Nick Astbury, inquired
about the situation with Kale Hiwot. Minister Askalu told
Astbury that the seizing of the church,s assets was an issue
independent from the church,s unregistered status. Rather,
Kale Hiwot was conducting activities outside of its area of
responsibility. &Churches8 she said, &should be limited
to spiritual matters.8 She further commented that churches
who run education, development or other programs should
establish a separate organization and, like any NGO, these
organizations need to be registered. According to her, the
programs run by Kale Hiwot are being divvied up among the
other appropriate Ministries.



4. (C) Comment: While human rights websites, such as
Compass Direct, are reporting this incident as a &direct
attack on the church8, the issue is much more nuanced. Over
the past two years, through proclamation and practice, the
GSE has reduced the number of the NGOs, both local and
international, from over 40 to just over 10. The government
continues to increase government scrutiny and control of
social institutions, including the registered religions and
their activities, schools, social welfare programs and those
providing humanitarian assistance. There is no question that
the unregistered churches and their congregations experience
persecution at the hand of the GSE (and this has been well
documented by post); however, to insist that this seizure is
an attack on the evangelical Protestant community
specifically is perhaps too big of a leap. Of course,
Minister Askalu,s implication that the church should
register is notable, as it is highly unlikely the GSE would
permit them to register as an NGO. As an unregistered
church, Kale Hiwot is a vulnerable target for the GSE and is
subject to persecution. Yet, post believes this latest
development more is a continuation of the GSE efforts to
further control its population and not one specifically aimed
at religious persecution. End Comment.
DELISI