No less than 30 Pentecostal Christians have been reportedly arrested in the northeast African nation of Eritrea recently, as the government continues its crackdown on Christianity.
BBC News reports that more than two dozen Christians were praying in three locations around the nation’s capital when they were rounded up and taken into custody by security forces.
This is only one instance of a growing trend of persecution against nondenominational Christians in Eritrea.
Recall that on May 10, over 140 Christians were arrested in the nation’s capital of Asmara after gathering for a meeting, persecution watchdog Open Doors USA reports.
Of the 141 arrested last month, 104 were women, 43 were men and 14 were minors.
Over the past few decades, Eritrean authorities have been frequently arresting church leaders and detaining them in squalid conditions like old shipping containers. Holed up in these dank makeshift cells, advocates say the oppressed Christians are “routinely deprived of water, food, proper sanitation and medicines,” according to Fredrick Nzwili at Religion News Service.
According to the Christian Post, since the nation declared its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, only four religions are officially recognized by the Eritrea government: Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islami, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea and the Catholic Church.
According to Catholic nonprofit news website Zenit, 50 percent of Eritrea’s population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea and 48 percent of the nation’s population subscribe to Sunni Islam. Outside of the four above mentioned religions and religious denominations, all other groups, Zenit reports, are considered “illegal.”
According to the Christian Post, recognized religions are also suffering in Eritrea, as the government demands “full control of religious organizations” and their affiliated businesses including clinics, orphanages and schools, among other things.
Since 2004, the U.S. State Department has regarded Eritrea as a “country of particular concern” for its flagrant violations of religious freedom.
“Eritrea has been branded ‘the North Korea of Africa.” “Tens of thousands have risked death from drowning to escape to Italy. Others have fled to Sudan or Ethiopia. One in 12 has fled the country. And many of those are Christians.”
Eritrea ranks 7th on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.