Eritrea (MNN) — Report after report agrees that religious persecution in Eritrea is increasing. Voice of the Martyrs Canada is just one confirming news release.
VOMC says Mussie Ezaz, an evangelist for more than a decade, was arrested in his home in the capital and imprisoned last week. Ezaz has a wife and three children and is part of the Kale Hiwot Church of Eritrea.
Even with accounts like this, the government tells a different story, according to Glenn Penner. "If you ask the Eritrean government if there are any Christians in jail because of their faith they will tell you, ‘No, there are no Christians in jail. There are only criminals in jail.' What they've done is to criminalize Christian activities."
Conflicting reports from the Eritrean government are not surprising. "The Eritrean government has determined that the best way to deal with religious persecution is not to say that people are being arrested for their religious convictions," says Penner. Instead they can say that they are actually being arrested for worshipping as unregistered groups or worshipping in ways that are contrary to the government, therefore drawing the attention away from human rights abuses.
However, the facts tell otherwise. "The fact is there are over 2,000 Christians in prison in Eritrea, often horribly tortured," said Penner.
The U.S. State Department released a report that stated that the situation has "deteriorated further." This confirms the rising of Eritrea on Open Doors' World Watch List of countries with the worst persecution from 14th to 13th.
Penner says persecuted believers are encouraged simply to know that they are being prayed for by Christians around the world and prayed for by name. Penner believes religious restrictions will trickle down to effect evangelism. "Absolutely, because, of course, it is in the very nature of Christianity to be able to share your faith. If there are restrictions on the ability to share one's faith, then one cannot say that you have true religious freedom."