A nightingale keeps on singing, just like a christian keeps on singing.
This is evident in the life of Helen Berhane who has written about her life in this book. She is a woman who was born in Eritrea. She gets married when she is 16 years young, her husband (20 years older) divorces her and she is left on her own with her young daughter Eva (born in 1994). She sets up a beauty parlor in Asmara and she not only is a businesswoman, but she is also a lady who wants to help others, encouraged by the love of Jesus Christ.
She develops her love for singing and she joins a pentecostal church (after having been a member of the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, persistently called the Catholic Church). At the background the troubled relationship of Eritrea and Ethiopia is played out.
Helen is arrested for speaking, from her christian conviction, about the political situation. They let her go and admonish her not to speak publicly. At another occasion people who attend a house-meeting are taken in by the police. At another occasion a man start a courtcase, but Helen is set free. Helen is not the kind of lady who can be silenced when she is convinced she has to speak because truth is on her side.
In the month of May in the year 2002 a decree tries to settle the religious situation in the country. Four religious groups are allowed: the Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and islam (with its different branches). This decree is the start for an anti-church propaganda.
From now on we see that Helen gets into serious trouble, she has released a CD in 2003, she teaches bibleclasses in secret. She ends in prison, and travels to different prisons. It is almost unbelievable the hardship Helen and others have to endure. The prison authorities try to persuade Helen to renounce her faith, but she continues singing, teaching, encouraging fellow prisoners. She even helps some young people who have been drafted into the army and who work as prison guard. She is beaten and humiliated and tortured, but she does not want and she cannot renounce her faith in Jesus Christ.
In the end after a very sever beating she is taken to a hospital in Asmara. From there she manages to get a visa for Sudan, some months later her daughter Eva is smuggled of Eritrea and she rejoins her mother. From Sudan they travel to Denmark where they both live. They have been helped by on organisation called Release Eritrea.
An horrendous story about persecution and turmoil in a country that fought so hard for freedom and now it is strangling its own hardwon freedom. Helen and Eva are not the only ones who have fled Eritrea, many of those who sail to Europe these days come from Eritrea.
Helen Berhane – Song of the Nightingale – 2009