Eritrea (MNN) — In early January, 30 Christians were arrested and detained in Asmara, Eritrea, allegedly for holding a prayer meeting, Voice of the Martyrs, Canada reports.
Some of the believers arrested had only just been released from previous detainment for their faith.
According to International Christian Concern, believers in Eritrea are seldom actually charged with a crime. This particular crackdown may have had something to do with the fact that the believers were members of the Philadelphia Church–an evangelical church that has been outlawed in Eritrea.
Since 2002, the country has refused to recognize more than four religious groups: Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. This stringent law forces all other worshippers underground.
And underground is often where they end up. Most of the over 3,000 believers detained in Eritrea right now are held in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers, and military barracks. Several Eritrean Christians have died in prison due to torture or lack of medical attention.
This combination of factors makes stories like that of the 30 arrested brothers and sisters disturbingly common in Eritrea. After all, the country remains twelfth on the World Watch List for persecution, following only nations like North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan. It's only second to Somalia for severity of persecution in African nations.
"There is no rule of law in Eritrea as far as Christians are concerned," notes ICC's Jonathan Racho. "No one there cares about them."
Pray that the church would continue to spread the Gospel in Eritrea.