Christian arrests in Eritrea confirmed

By December 9, 2009

Eritrea (MNN) — A religious rights advocate in Washington, DC is condemning the arrest of more Christians in Eritrea. According to International Christian Concern, 30 Christian women were arrested in Asmara, the country's capital city.

International Christians Concern's Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia Jonathan Racho says, "The Christians were praying at a house at the time Eritrean officials raided the prayer meeting, arrested all of the people, and took them to the police station."

Their children and grandchildren told ICC sources that they are concerned about the safety of their loved one. Racho is concerned, too, "because we know that Christians who are imprisoned in Eritrea are mistreated, they face torture, and there are cases where Christians were tortured to death."

Racho is baffled by their arrests. "They don't pose any security risk to the country. These are just old married people. They have just come together to pray. It doesn't make any sense to arrest moms and grand-moms for praying together."

Most of the detainees are members of Faith Mission Church, an evangelical body. The church has been carrying out evangelistic and development activities in Eritrea for over five decades. It was forced to go underground in 2002 after Eritrean officials required all religious groups to register. The officials then allowed only three Christian denominations to register. They include: the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran denominations.

Since 2002, officials of Eritrea have been cracking down on members of both registered and unregistered churches. They have imprisoned more than 3,000 Christians keeping them in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers, and military barracks. Several Christians have died inside prisons due to torture and lack of medical treatment.

Racho says Eritrea is a communist nation. "They have this strong ambition to control every aspect of their people. They want to regulate everything. They want to intervene in every aspect of their citizens' lives."

Many human rights observers have accused Eritrea of human rights violations, specifically religious rights violations, says Racho. "Eritrean officials continue to deny that they are violating the religious freedom of their people. They continue to deny they are imprisoning Christians. This is just unbelievable."

Racho says, "We condemn the arrest of the 30 women by Eritrean officials. We urge officials of Eritrea to release the detainees and all the imprisoned Christians in the country. We call upon Eritrea to stop violating the freedom of religion of its people."

While the atrocities are great, Racho says the underground church is growing. "People are coming to Christ because they are desperate, because there is rampant poverty and starvation; people are finding hope in Jesus Christ, and they know that's the only hope that they have."

In the meantime, ICC is helping support the families of these imprisoned believers. You can help ICC by making a donation. Click here to help.

Please pray for the safety of the imprisoned women, their release from prison, and for the release of all the imprisoned Christians in Eritrea.


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