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Eritrea: USCIRF Calls for Further Action Against Religious Persecution

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 broke communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople over the definition of the divine and human natures of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. “USCIRF Calls for Further Action Against Religious Persecution in Eritrea,” International Christian Concern, May 21, 2024:
5/21/2024 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) — This week, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released an article calling on the Biden administration to draw greater attention to religious freedom violations in Eritrea.

In the article, USCIRF highlights the treatment of prisoners in Eritrea as particularly egregious.  

“Two entire decades have passed since the Eritrean government arrested Pastors Haile Nayzgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel, USCIRF Commissioner Frank Wolf said. “It is unconscionable that these two men, along with Pastor Meron Gebreselasie, who was arrested a month later, remain imprisoned under horrible conditions. Bishop Abune Antonios died at age 94 in 2022 while under house arrest. Other Eritrean church leaders should not suffer the same fate.”

Despite Eritrea’s rich history of Christianity and provisions in its drafted constitution for religious freedom, government actors continue to persecute Christians. Laws affecting religious minorities include Article 196 of the Eritrean Penal Code, which condemns “Disturbance of Religious or Ethnic Feelings.” This law criminalizes public ridicule of a ceremony or rite of any recognized religious group. Violators can serve six to 12 months in prison. Perhaps even more concerning is Proclamation Number 73 of 1995, which gives government officials control over religious activities. All religious groups are required to register with the government….

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