Visiting an Eritrean Refugee Camp

From Gord Martin’s trip to Ethiopia & Eritrea with Yonatan Hiruy:

Monday afternoon was the highlight of our trip. Not because we saw or experienced something wonderful. Quite the opposite. We came looking for trouble and found it! We visited an Eritrean refugee camp north of Gonder, not too far from the Tigrayan border. That’s where war had been raging up until December.

The people we met had fled from Eritrea, a country led by a tyrannical idiot president, to settle as refugees in Tigray, the northernmost province of Ethiopia. Then war broke out between the federal government of Ethiopia and the province of Tigray. Now these Eritrean refugees had to flee again! They are double refugees.

We met with six church leaders who told us of the miserable and dangerous conditions for the 23,000 inhabitants of the camp. They said it’s not uncommon to find a dead human body, left in the open. There are armed bandits everywhere, part of the aftermath of war. They told us how desperate they were to immigrate, to anywhere safe. One of the men had his arm broken by a bandit who robbed him. They said that in the winter, coming soon, its cold and muddy. The place is called the ground that “swallows up”. They are not allowed to leave the camp and its immediate surroundings. They cannot work legally. They have no rights.

One of the men said, “Seeing you here gives us hope that God still cares for us”.
Another said, “You have no idea how much this means to us, that you would come from such a distance to visit us!”
So, sobering!!
We went right into the camp, looked inside the tents, visited two churches that are meeting there. Of course, kids were curious, wanting to practice their English on us/me. I am more than a little conspicuous here!

We talked with them about possible solutions, short term and long term. Yonatan and I have been talking about those options since Monday.
Please pray for us that we will find a way to bring meaningful help to these dear “loved by God” people.
– Gord Martin (March 22, 2023)

Visiting an Eritrean Refugee Camp