From Prison to Peace

Mengsteab
by SalvationArmy.ca
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Mengsteab Abraha was arrested and imprisoned for praying with friends. Then he lived in a refugee camp where conditions were so deplorable he chooses not to discuss it. Yet, after horrible punishment and tremendous struggles, Abraha has found peace and new opportunities, thanks to The Salvation Army.

“The Evangelical Church was outlawed in Eritrea by the government,” says Abraha. “Any kind of public church meetings are illegal, other than those in the approved denominations by the government. So anytime we gathered, we faced arrest, persecution and imprisonment.”

Abraha, who was raised in a Pentecostal family, was studying at college when the government discovered he was meeting secretly off campus for prayer.

“I was sent to prison for a year,” says Abraha. “It left lots of scars.”

After his release, Abraha completed college and graduated with a degree in biology. He worked for a few years until there was another threat.

Fear and Suffering
“I received a phone call to say people were searching to arrest me and my friends who attended prayer groups. So I fled to nearby Sudan,” says Abraha. “I couldn’t return home. That was very hard.”

For three months Abraha lived in a refugee camp where there wasn’t enough food for everyone, medicine was limited and people died every day due to sickness and disease.  

“At the camp I almost died because of the poor sanitation and lack of food,” says Abraha. “I don’t like to think about it because people there are still suffering.”

While in Sudan, Abraha found his brother and left the camp to live with him. He searched for resettlement opportunities to safe countries. Meanwhile, he worked for Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA), a program that helps visa-ready migrants settle in Canada, as an interpreter and facilitator.

Settlement Services
“I immigrated to Winnipeg in 2018,” says Abraha. “It wasn’t long before I learned about LEEP (Life and Employability Enhancement Program), an employment training program at The Salvation Army’s Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre.”

LEEP is a pre-employment program for newcomer youth from war-affected countries. Participants learn about Canadian culture and a wide range of skills such as computer, job interviewing and resume writing. The goal is that each graduate be employed at the conclusion of the course.

“The Salvation Army helped me get my feet on the ground,” says Abraha. “They restored my self-esteem, boosted my confidence and enhanced my employability.”

Today Abraha is an instructor at the LEEP program with specific goals for his future.

“I want to continue my education to become a nurse or ultrasound technician,” says Abraha. “This is what is in my mind—a new life without fear or lack of freedom.”