13 Eritrean Christians still held in prison after raid on prayer meetings

Last month, authorities in Eritrea stormed two separate prayer meetings and arrested 35 of its members. So far, 22 people have been released while 13 persons are still in custody. 

The International Christian Concern (ICC), a U.S based persecution watchdog, reported that on April 11, the 22 Christians who had more women amongst them regained their freedom from the Mai Sarawa prison. The remaining 13 persons still in custody are facing harsh conditions in Assab prison, 660 miles southeast from Asmara.

The ICC got its reports from Barnabas Fund and Release International which stated that members of the Eritrean Army executed the arrests last month. However, the groups said that they do not know why the remaining 13 are still in custody. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to see that those released are in good health.

About 160 Christians have been released from Eritrean prisons since last September. Barnabas Fund said that the latest arrests show that the government is not willing to relax its harsh policies on Christians in the country.

The president of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, is a member of the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Asmara. Only three denominations are allowed to operate in the country and the Orthodox Church is the biggest among them.

The 75 year old president is the leader of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice Party. He is known to be an alcoholic and a brutal autocrat. According to reports, Afewerki is afraid that religion will organize people as a political force than religion itself. Hence, he is instituting restriction policies.

In February, 70 Christians from evangelical and Orthodox background got their freedom from three prisons in Eritrea. Some of them were imprisoned for more than a decade without charge.

In most situations, the Christians being persecuted get arrested without any trace. This leaves their families and friends without any information about them. Eritrea has one of the harshest prison conditions in the world where inmates are imprisoned in shipping containers and tortured with the intention that they would renounce their faith.

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