ERITREA: More Christians arrested

Eritrea Map (with three extra towns)On the night of 24 April, many Christians were forcibly removed from their homes in the towns of Agordet, Barentu and Tesseney in west and central Eritrea. Initial estimates suggest that more than thirty people were detained and they are believed to be Evangelicals, but no further details have been released.

Dr Berhane Asmelash, director of Church in Chains partner organisation Release Eritrea, commented: “It makes me sad to hear of the continuing persecution of Christians that has been ongoing for two decades now. I call for justice and I also call on all Christians to join us in praying for the persecuted church of Eritrea.

Reporting the news of the detentions, Release Eritrea stated that it “urges the Eritrean government to uphold the fundamental rights of religious freedom and to release all those unjustly detained” and added, “We call upon the international community to condemn these violations and to advocate for the protection of religious minorities in Eritrea.”

The incident follows what Release Eritrea describes as “a similarly troubling pattern of resurgence in religious oppression in the country”.

In January 2024 over thirty Christians were arrested at a child’s birthday party in a suburb of the capital, Asmara. They are being held in Mai Serwa prison near Asmara, a prison that is notorious for its appalling facilities and inhumane treatment of prisoners. In March three more families from Asmara were also imprisoned in Mai Serwa.

In May 2002 the Eritrean government banned all religious groups except the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches and Sunni Islam and began to arrest and imprison Christians from banned churches in terrible conditions without charge, trial or sentence and without access to lawyers.

Some prisoners are released after a few weeks or months, often without explanation and sometimes to free space for new detainees, but many Christians have been held for years. Some senior church leaders have been imprisoned incommunicado for twenty years.

(Release Eritrea)