Name: Abune Antonios
Country/Area of Origin: Eritrea
Background: Abune Antonios is the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, one of the only four religions legally recognized by the state (others include Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, and Sunni Islam). Patriarch Abune Antonios is a staunch advocate for religious freedom and separation of Church and State affairs. During his relatively short tenure as Patriarch, Abune Antonios refused to meet the government’s demands to excommunicate some 3,000 members of the Medhane Alem Sunday School Movement, which operated within the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Moreover, Patriarch Antonios publicly condemned the government for arresting priests. His acts of bravery and criticism led to an extremely oppositional relationship between himself and the government, and in 2005, the government took a first step at refusing to broadcast Patriarch Antonios’ Christmas speech.
Reason for Arrest:
In January 2006, as a result of the growing tensions, a group within the Holy Synod officially confiscated Abune Antonios’ title as the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, and subsequently he was placed under house arrest. Approximately a year after his initial arrest, officials forcibly evacuated Patriarch Abune Antonios from his home and transported him to a secret location. Very little is known about his status or whereabouts, but it is confirmed that he experiences a severe form of diabetes and is repeatedly denied medical care by officials. Patriarch Abune Antonios has no formal charges registered against him.
- In October 2020, it was reported that Patriarch Antonios, despite his elderly age, is healthy. A photo was circulated via Facebook showing him sitting outside the detention compound during his “allowed time” outdoors. However, because of the high profile of his case, the photographer remains anonymous to prevent any retribution for circulating the image.