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Un-orthodox An Eritrean festival in a Swiss church

What happens when Switzerland’s sizeable Eritrean population has a round-the-clock religious festival to celebrate and nowhere to gather? Photographer Daniel Rihs found out. 

The protestant community in the town of Buchs in northern Switzerland came to the rescue and offered their church to the Eritreans for the nearly 24-hour Epiphany feast day in early January. 

The Eritreans allowed Rihs to move about freely. The only restrictions: no photographs of the sacrament or the goings-on of the clergy behind the red curtain seen in one of the images. 

Around 28,500 Eritreans live in Switzerland. About a quarter of them arrived as asylum seekers in 2014. Around 10,000 Eritreans applied for asylum in 2015. 

Most Eritreans in Switzerland are Orthodox Christians. While people belonging to the Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian denominations are subject to arbitrary detention and torture in Eritrea, human rights organisations say the government also interferes with the Orthodox church, having deposed its patriarch and put him under house arrest. 

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SWI swissinfo.ch on Instagram

SWI swissinfo.ch on Instagram

SWI swissinfo.ch on Instagram

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