(Asmara, Eritrea 25-10-2013) Release Eritrea, a UK based charity, has learned that Eritrean security forces, raided a prayer meeting and arrested 150 Christians found praying together in Maitemenai, a suburb to the north of Asmara. It is thought that the believers had gathered to pray about the escalating refugee crisis and the trouble in the country that has been of concern to many Eritreans in recent days.
The gathering is said to have been under the auspices of an underground fellowship known locally as ‘Hiyaw Amlak’ (Living God). The fellowship is part of a wide network of underground fellowships that have been in operation throughout the country since 2002, when the Eritrean government shut all churches not belonging to the officially sanctioned religious groups.
Although no details of the whereabouts of all the prisoners have been disclosed officially, friends and families of the detained believe at least some of them are held at the 4th Police Station near an area known as Edaga Hamus in the adjoining district, from where the raid and arrests occurred.
The arrest has alarmed underground church leaders, who fear that this may be a sign of things to come.
- Eritrea is one of the biggest violators on religious rights, churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran groups are banned their leaders have been under arrest since 2002. Those groups that are sanctioned by the government operate under severe restriction and also suffer from persecution against outspoken leaders. The Patriarch of the orthodox Church disappeared in 2005.
- It is believed that up to 2,000 Christians are being detained and harassed on the count of their faith, and many leave the country following arrests or harassment.
- Release Eritrea is a UK based human rights charity working with the underground church in Eritrea and with refugee communities across the region.