Eritrean Christians released, others still imprisoned

By December 17, 2009

Eritrea (MNN) — For once there's some good news coming out of Eritrea. International Christian Concern reports that some Eritrean Christians have been released by authorities.

ICC's Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia Jonathan Racho says, "The Christian women who were arrested last week were released. We're really happy and excited to announce this!"

The elderly women were detained for praying together at a house in Asmara, Eritrea's capital. Eritrean security forces raided the prayer meeting and brought the women to a police station in Asmara. Mission Network News aired the story last week.

Most of the released Christians are members of Faith Mission Church, an unregistered evangelical church. The church has been carrying out evangelistic and development activities in Eritrea for over five decades and 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. The three registered churches are: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea.

Racho is uncertain why these Christians were released, and he continues to be concerned. "There are still more than 3,000 Christians who are suffering in Eritrea. On the one hand, we celebrate the release of these women, but at the same time we call on the Eritrean officials to release the other 3,000 Christians who are suffering in Eritrean prisons."

Since 2002, officials of Eritrea have been cracking down on members of both registered and unregistered churches. Racho says, "They are imprisoned in underground dungeons. Some are imprisoned in metal shipping containers and also in military barracks. They are kept in inhumane conditions."

ICC has reported the deaths of Christians who have either not received proper medical attention because of sickness, or tortured to death.

Racho says ICC is helping families of imprisoned pastors, and they need your financial support. "The pastors or church leaders in many cases are the sole bread winners. When they're imprisoned, their wives and children will suffer."

One of the released women told an ICC source, "We appreciate all the people who prayed for us. Please thank God for our release."

Racho says despite this persecution, the church is growing. "Persecution does not stop the Gospel from spreading. Rather, persecution creates very bold, dedicated Christians who are determined to bring souls to Christ."

ICC is helping the families of pastors who have been imprisoned. You can help financially. Just click here.

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