The Eritrean government has stepped up its campaign against Christians, arresting almost a hundred followers of Christ in recent weeks. The arrests came as believers in the repressive East African country marked ten years since government officials placed the Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, Abune Antonios, under house arrest and incommunicado, and 15 years since the forced closure of many churches.
Since the government passed a law shutting down many churches, some Christians meet in secret. Evangelicals are at particular risk since a 2002 law was passed ─ prohibiting churches other than those of Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran affiliation. However, as the Orthodox leader’s incarceration shows, members of permitted churches are also at risk if they criticise the regime.
The fresh wave of arrests took place early this May, leading up to Eritrea’s Independence Day (24 May). Many Christians found themselves under added scrutiny around the time of the country’s Independence Day celebrations because they are reluctant to participate in ceremonies that go against their conscience.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, at least 28 Christians have died during their incarceration ─ or shortly after being released ─ as a result of harsh treatment in prison or withheld medical treatment. Those who have survived imprisonment recount facing torture, hard labour, filthy conditions and insufficient food.
Source: World Watch Monitor