By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)– Religious persecution in Eritrea is at its highest ever and getting even worse, according to World Watch Monitor, the news outlet of Open Doors, a Christian charity that ranked Eritrea 10th on its World Watch List.
This year alone, 191 Christians have already been arrested in the African country as Eritrea lives up to its epithet: "the North Korea of Africa".
After 2002, Eritrea only recognized several state-sanctioned religions, such as Sunni Islam; this has allowed the government of President Isaias Afewerki to incarcerate up to 3,000 Christians for both political and religious reasons, according to Ecumenical News.
"Any religion that is not willing to come under the control of the government is being persecuted," said Selem Kidane, the director of Release Eritrea, a UK-based human rights organization. "It's not just confined to Christians. But in terms of being completely banned, it's the minority churches that have suffered the most …"
Amnesty International reported in May that there is still "rampant repression" in the country 20 years after it became independent from Ethiopia.
"The government has systematically used arbitrary arrest and detention without charge to crush all opposition, to silence all dissent, and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive restrictions it places on people's lives," said Claire Beston, a researcher for Amnesty International.
People caught trying to illegally leave Eritrea are detained and held in horrible conditions; many are kept in metal shipping containers without ventilation, according to Voice of the Martyrs.
Christians trying to escape from Eritrea are often kidnapped by human traffickers; if their ransoms aren't paid, they are sold to other criminal groups that in turn ransom them again.
The chairman of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, Tewelde Gebresilase, said human trafficking has proved to be a lucrative business for Bedouins and local Eritrean officials who are bribed to facilitate the trade.