By BosNewsLife Africa Service
ASMARA, ERITREA (BosNewsLife) — An Eritrean evangelist who has been imprisoned since 2006 has reportedly told friends he may die soon as he receives harsh prison treatment because of his evangelistic activities among fellow inmates, BosNewsLife monitored Thursday, September 25.
Teame Weldegebriel languishes at the Mai Sirwa Maximum Security Confinement prison where many inmates have become Christians because if his activities, Christians said.
"It seems that hell has broken loose on me. Please tell the brethren to continue praying for me. I am not sure I will see them again," the evangelist was quoted as saying by Compass Direct News, a news service investigating reports of religious persecution.
Weldegebrielâ€™s family said they are concerned about his health after failing to get permission to visit him in the prison, where many detainees reportedly go hungry and are said to be feeding on leaves. Eritrean officials had no comment.
Over 2,000 Christians in Eritrea are imprisoned for their faith, including a Christian from a Full Gospel Church who was arrested in 2001, according to several rights groups. His wife last saw him in June 2007, Christians said. She and her two minor children were reportedly rounded up from a prayer meeting in mid-July and placed in a metal shipping container until their release last month.
"I was arrested with my children while having a prayer meeting with 20 other Christians,â€ said the woman, who requested anonymity for security reasons, in a statement. â€œThey locked us up at a military concentration camp, inside metal ship containers. I remember the horrible ordeal I went through with the children. After three weeks I was released with my two children, while the other Christian soldiers remained locked in the prison cells."
In another incident in the seaport city of Massawa, police detained a man and a woman, both Christians, who were talking to Muslims about Christ. The members of the Kale Hiwot Church, were discussing their Christian faith when four plainclothes policemen arrested them in June, Compass Direct News said, citing local sources.
They were reportedly taken to join more than 100 Christians imprisoned in Waire prison about 25 kilometers [16 miles] from Massawa. A previously imprisoned evangelist with the Full Gospel Church in Asmara who requested anonymity was quoted as saying that God â€œis at workâ€ in Eritrea, with many people converting to Christ and receiving â€œdivineâ€ healing.
"For sure Christians are getting imprisoned, but Godâ€™s word cannot be imprisoned…I am ready for any eventuality, including being imprisoned again. On several occasions, prison wardens warned me to stop preaching, though they still loved me. Indeed Jesus loved me. They saw God in me," the evangelist reportedly said.
The Eritrean government views leaders of the unregistered denominations such as the Full Gospel Church and Rhema Church as threats to its power base, Christians said. However the government has in the past said that reports of mass arrests are "distorted and exaggerated" and that "people have never been prevented from their right to worship freely."
Yet, the US State Department said in its 2008 International Religious Freedom Report that Eritrea has not implemented its 1997 constitution, which provides for religious freedom. It also designated Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) since 2004. The CPC list contains states who are seen as the "worst violators of religious freedom."
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