Thirteen Christians were released from Mai Serwa prison near the Eritrean capital, Asmara, in late July. The seven women and six men had reportedly been in prison for about ten years. Mai Serwa prison is notorious for its appalling, inadequate facilities and inhumane treatment of prisoners and is where Christian prisoner Twen Theodros spent several years before her release in 2020.
Rev Dr Berhane Asmelash, who is to be Church in Chains’ conference speaker in September, reports that since March 2022 around four hundred Christians have been arrested in Eritrea and around one hundred have been released, most of them newly-arrested prisoners. He also reports that 27 long-term prisoners have been released this year: seven from Assab prison in March, seven from Mai Serwa prison in May and 13 from Mai Serwa in July.
Dr Berhane adds, “So although it is good to celebrate for any released prisoners, more people are in this year. Forty-four were arrested in New Year. Thirty were arrested in February and 103 singers were arrested in April. All of these are still in prison.”
It is estimated that around four hundred Christians are currently imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea, with several pastors having been detained since 2004.
In May 2002 Eritrea banned all religious practice outside the four recognised faith groups: the Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches, and Islam. Since then, thousands of believers from the banned groups have been imprisoned and some have died in custody. None of those imprisoned has been charged or accorded due legal process – instead, many are tortured and asked to recant their faith or to pledge not to partake in any activities related to their faith, including officiating at or attending weddings or funerals.
Read more about the situation facing Eritrean Christians in Church in Chains’ Eritrea Country Profile.
(Christian Post, Release Eritrea, Voice of the Martyrs)
Image: UN/Google Earth