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Authorities in Eritrea step up persecution against Christians.

By March 24, 2005

Eritrea (MNN)–Under the International Religious Freedom Act, Eritrea joined Saudi Arabia and Vietnam on a ‘countries of concern’ (CPC) list.

Voice of the Martyrs-Canada’s Glenn Penner says they’re all countries known to persecute the church. The list already includes North Korea, Sudan, Burma and China.

The 1998 law lets the State Department discuss problem areas with the countries, and announce sanctions against those not acting to address the concerns.

That deadline for Eritrea was March 15th. However, the US State department asked for more time to communicate with representatives before deciding on punitive action.

But, Penner says the harassment in Eritrea has intensified in recent days. “It’s bizarre, the way Eritrean authorities are dealing with evangelicals. They don’t understand them, obviously, but they are very sensitive, very upset with the US accusations, and even though, last week we had reports that there might be a breakthrough between the United States and Eritrea, it’s obvious that there really hasn’t been.”

Arrests of Christians have escalated since February 19th. According to news sources, the last 30 from a group of 131 Sunday school teachers and children have been released from custody in Eritrea. However, a church leader was arrested, and his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, 16 others were arrested for watching a Christian video. Two older women were fined heavily and released, but the other 14 are detained, and have yet to be charged.

Penner says attempts to stamp out evangelism have backfired. “Church growth is not typically stymied by persecution. The church there is one of the reasons why there is persecution–because the church is growing. Of course, there’s caution, there’s concern, they may be less up front with their evangelism, but I’m absolutely confident that the church is continuing to grow and that people are continuing to share their faith.”

Pray that the government will stop the campaign against evangelicals and will allow freedom of religion for all.

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