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Eritrea: Over 200 Christians arrested in past twelve months

Christians make up about 50% of the population of Eritrea, but are still subject to persecution. Most Christians in Eritrea are members of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, which severed communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the definition of the divine and human natures of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451.

“Over 200 Christians arrested in Eritrea in past twelve months,” by Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux, July 4, 2024:
The East African country of Eritrea has been ranked as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for being a follower of Jesus.

A 3 July report by UK-based Release International, an organisation that covers the persecuted Church worldwide, states that at least 218 Christians had been arrested in Eritrea within the past 12 months, many of them women and children.

“This latest crackdown means that around 400 Christians are currently imprisoned – indefinitely, without trial or charge – because of their faith,” the report states. It highlights that between January and May this year, 110 Christians were seized.

“In the last round of arrests some children have been arrested with their parents, and in some cases the whole family is in prison,” said Dr. Berhane Asmelash, a former prisoner of faith, and local partner for Release International.

“We are very concerned for the physical and mental wellbeing of the children, some of whom are only two years old. This is totally unacceptable, and we strongly condemn this inhuman act by the Eritrean government,” he said….

His government recognises only four state religions, namely the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Sunni Islam, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. But even with these that are recognised, the government keeps tight control over their activities, their finances and preaching.

“Speaking out about persecution or government interference in church matters is not tolerated at all,” states Open Doors, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians around the world.

Ellis Heasley, the public affairs officer for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, told Crux in an earlier interview that “in Eritrea, Christians continue to face widespread imprisonment and other violations of their fundamental human rights”.

“Many will be familiar with the case of Abune (Father) Antonios, the legitimate patriarch of the Orthodox Church who died on 9 February 2022 following 16 years under house arrest,” Heasley said. “He had been removed from office in 2006, in violation of canon law, for repeatedly objecting to government interference in ecclesiastical affairs and refusing to excommunicate members of the Orthodox renewal movement.

“He died amidst allegations he was being injected with an unknown substance that had detrimental effects on his health. The patriarch’s continued and unjust detention throughout the final years of his life is indicative of the Eritrean authorities’ persisting hostility to Christian groups in the country. The government has effectively ‘captured’ the Orthodox Church, controlling its finances, selling its assets, approving and imposing leaders and imprisoning priests and others who object,” Heasley said.

The recent Release International report comes at the same time the US State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report in which Eritrea is listed as a so-called Country of Particular Concern due to “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom”….

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