The Eritrean security forces continue to crack down on the country’s Christians through the use of mass arrests and other intimidation tactics.
Over the past few days, it has been reported that as many as 30 believers have been detained in the capital of Asmara, at various different locations.
Police officers continue to carry out “continuous raids in private homes where devotees of unrecognized religions, especially Pentecostal Christians, meet for community prayer,” reads a local report, cited by Christian persecution watchdog, Open Doors USA. “They are released only if they disavow their faith.”
The Eritrean government authorities continue to demand “full control” of all the Church-run organizations and initiatives in the country, such as private schools, medical clinics and orphanages.
Eritrea, The ‘North Korea of Africa’
In 2002, the current President, Isaias Afwerki, declared that all independent Protestant Churches were official “enemies of the state.”
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.
“The roundup traces to a 2002 law that permits the operation of only a handful of religious groups: Orthodox Christian, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, along with Sunni Islam,” Nzwilli added. “Since then, the government has cracked down on evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are seen as foreign-influenced threats to security and Eritrean autonomy.”
The latest police action comes less than two weeks after police detained some 140 Christians as they celebrated their Independence Day from Ethiopia.
According to British-based Christian persecution watchdog, Release International, the group was rounded up by secret police as they gathered to worship.
“Eritrea has been branded ‘the North Korea of Africa,’” the charity noted in its report. “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.