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USCIRF annual report highlights negative religious freedom conditions in Eritrea

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In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation. No new religious institutions were officially registered, and thus only four religious communities remain legally permitted to operate: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Eritrea, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea, a Lutheran-affiliated denomination.

During 2019, there was an increase in political activism and calls for democratic reform by secular and religious Eritreans. The government responded harshly to both registered religious groups as well as unrecognized ones, such as the Pentecostal and Evangelical Christian communities, and accused religious actors of political interference for defending their beliefs and human rights. Christians were arbitrarily arrested and detained, including in waves of arrests in May of more than 171 adults and children gathering for worship around Asmara. In August, another 80 were reportedly arrested for practicing their faith. In April, Eritrean Catholic bishops wrote a joint letter calling for national truth and reconciliation. Throughout the year, the government forcibly took over and closed multiple faith-based schools as well as 22 additional Catholic Church-run health centers.

Read full report available in English and Tigrinya here.

USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore cautions that religious freedom conditions in Eritrea continue to trend negatively. The governmentt maintained severe restrictions on religious practice and conducted waves of arrests of religious minorities.

Please keep our Eritrean brothers and sisters in your prayers.

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