Open Doors strongly urges monitoring of aid money

By April 8, 2009

Eritrea (MNN) — In the open deserts of Africa, thousands of people are suffering in military prisons, labor camps, and metal shipping containers. Open Doors USA reports that mass arrests in Eritrea brought the total number of imprisoned people to almost 3,000 last October.

Despite these ongoing human rights violations, the European Commission could release over $161 million dollars of aid money to the country. Human rights are an important factor in the EC's foreign policy, and four organizations are concerned that this significant funding won't reach Eritrea's people.

"We are extremely concerned that the European Commission's generous allocation of aid to Eritrea does not simply provide a financial lifeline to the oppressive Eritrean leadership," says Arie de Pater, Open Doors Director of Advocacy, "but rather alleviates the incredible suffering of the Eritrean people."

The letter has been sent to the European Parliament Committee on Development, Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Human Rights. Along with Open Doors, both the Church in Chains and Christian Solidarity Worldwide signed the letter, as well as Release Eritrea.

Ranked ninth on International Christian Concern's Hall of Shame, Eritrea follows North Korea, Iraq and Iran on a list of ten nations having the worst Christian persecution worldwide.

Except for the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Muslim faiths, all religions were banned in May 2002. Since then, anyone outside of the approved denominations have been imprisoned, forced underground, or evicted from the country. Three believers were martyred last year after severe torture.

"Aid and development is definitely needed," said de Pater. "We call on the European Commission, however, to ensure that the aid will benefit the people rather than the leadership or the military. Strict monitoring of funds and projects is crucial."

Open Doors reports that thousands of non-believers are also held without charge or trial. Believers are asked to pray for the church in Eritrea to stand firm, and for approved denominations to speak out on the behalf of persecuted believers.

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