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Eritrean Government Imprisons 150 Christians for Praying Together

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(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.

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Hyndburn MP speaks out on behalf of persecuted Christians in Eritrea

Eritrea__map AN MP has raised the issue of persecuted Christians in parliament. Hyndburn MP Graham Jones spoke out to ask if the government was probing the issue of mistreated Christians in Eritrea. Reports say people are fleeing the tiny Red Sea state because of religious persecution, including raids and torture. Mr Jones raised the issue on the floor of the Commons and quizzed the staff of the foreign secretary about what was being done. He said:

“I would ask the secretary when he last discussed the persecution of Christians in Eritrea with firstly the government of Eritrea, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the United Nations’ human rights bodies.”

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Mark Simmonds replied:

“We raise human rights issues, including the persecution of Christians, with the Government of Eritrea at every opportunity and work closely with our partners to coordinate on these issues.
“In June, our ambassador in Asmara raised the persecution of Christians with senior representatives of the Eritrean Government. We work closely with the EU on Eritrea. In December last year, our ambassador alongside EU colleagues called on the Eritrean Government to release all prisoners held for their religious beliefs. We also expressed our concern about freedom of expression and opinion in Eritrea at the UN Human Rights Council.”

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