Eritrea: Religious freedom hopes dashed as Christians arrested

Many Christians in Eritrea have been imprisoned in inhumane conditions in shipping containers. (PHOTO: Voice of the Martyrs)

Originally published in Voice of Martyrs

Thirty-five Christians have been arrested in Eritrea for conducting prayer meetings.

The latest arrests dash hopes of a change of heart towards Christians in that country, where many have been imprisoned for their faith since Eritrea closed most of its churches in 2002.

The arrests took place last week when the army raided a prayer meeting held by 23 women in the capital Asmara. Another 12 were arrested in Assab, near the border with Djibouti.

The women in the capital were praying in Mai Chehot, close to the army barracks. Soldiers took them to Mai Sarawa prison.

The 12 arrested in Assab were also caught holding a prayer meeting in a house and were taken to a prison nearby. Many Christians in Eritrea have been arrested without charge and jailed indefinitely in very harsh conditions.

In Eritrea, citizens have a duty to report anything untoward happening in their community. This can turn ordinary neighbours into spies. In some cases, their own family members have reported Christians. With these latest arrests, it is possible the Christians gave themselves away by the numbers turning up to pray or due to the sound of their singing.

In the past six months, 171 Christians who were arrested for their faith have been set free.

“But this latest wave of arrests is proof positive there has been no change in the repressive government policy towards religious freedom,” says Dr Berhane Asmelash, a partner of Release International – sister mission of Voice of the Martyrs.

There is now an estimated 165 Christian prisoners in state jails in Eritrea. Many army conscripts have also been locked up for practising their faith. That number could be as high as 150.

Eritrea outlawed most religions in 2002 when the government banned every faith other than Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Sunni Islam.

Let us pray

  • Pray that believers and their families will be provided with inner strength during this difficult and uncertain time.
  • Pray they may take comfort in the Lord’s ministering presence.
  • Pray for justice for these prisoners and for their release.
  • Pray those in authority will come to respect the rights of all citizens, including the freedom to worship.

Comments are closed.