Worthy Christian News » Eritrea Christians Die In Prison, Nearly 3,000 Detained

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Worthy Christian News » Eritrea Christians Die In Prison, Nearly 3,000 Detained

By Worthy News Correspondents Eric Leijenaar and Stefan J. Bos

eritrea_pastor

Eritrean Evangelical pastors, like this young man, can face detention and torture, rights groups say. Via Open Doors

ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)– At least two detained Christians have died this month in Eritrea after a "long period of torture" in a notorious military prison camp, while the number of Christians jailed in the African nation because of their faith approaches 3,000, a well-informed Christian rights group said Wednesday, January 21.

Netherlands-based Open Doors, which has close contacts with reportedly persecuted Christians in Eritrea and around the world, identified the two men as Mogos Hagos Kiflom, 37, and Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom, 42.

Asgedom,  a member of the evangelical Church of the Living God in Mendefera, reportedly died Friday, January 16, of torture and complications from diabetes.  His death came after fellow Christian Kiflom was said to have died as a result of torture he endured for refusing to recant his faith, Open Doors said.

The exact date of his death was unknown. Authorities have apparently refused to give more details or to allow an independent autopsy. "The two died in the Mitire-Camp; Asgedom died in an isolation jail," Open Doors told Worthy News.

The reported deaths of the two men brought the total number of Christians dying in detention to at least eight,  however "it is possible that more Christians have died," as part of a major crackdown on Christian activities, Open Doors added.

The Mitire Camp, located in north-west Eritrea, is a "new military concentration camp" notorious for abuses, the advocacy group said. It was reportedly set up especially for accommodating Christians. The two Christians apparently passed away shortly Open Doors told Worthy News earlier that in October  Teklesenbet Gebreab Kiflom, 36, died while imprisoned for his faith at the Wi’a Military Confinement center. He was reported to have died after prison commanders refused to give him medical attention for malaria.

THOUSANDS DETAINED

Eritrean church leaders in comments released by Open Doors said 2907 Christians are now known to be detained in Eritrea, up from roughly 2,000 reported last year.

Most of those detained are described as "Bible-believing Christians" who are active in evangelical and Protestant movements, Open Doors said.

Advocacy groups claim many have been held in military camps, as well as shipping containers, police stations and other facilities.

Since May 2002 only the Eritrese Orthodoxe Church, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches are allowed as part of government efforts to crackdown on Christian activities,
several advocacy groups said.

Even within those churches leaders have complained off harassment: In 2006, the government removed Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios from office.

STATE INTERFERENCE

Human rights group Amnesty International attributed his removal to his criticism of alleged state interference in church activities, including a crackdown on several evangelical Christian movements popular with some young Eritreans.

The government of autocratic President Isaias Afewerki has dismissed the allegations, saying it was an internal Church matter. Eritrea also condemned human rights organizations and the United States, who regularly accuse authorities here of religious persecution, especially against unregistered evangelical congregations.

"The government severely restricts freedom of religion for groups that it has not registered and infringes upon the independence of some registered groups," the United States State Department said in a recent report.

It also said the Eritrean government continues to "harass, arrest, and detain members of unregistered minority religious groups" while seeking "greater control over the four approved religious groups."

RELIGIOUS GROUPS

Eritrea's Government allegedly also "failed to register religious groups, and it restricted religious meetings and arrested individuals during religious gatherings." In addition, it  detained people refusing to serve in the military for religious reasons, the State Department said.

And, US officials cited "reports of forced recantations of faith and torture of religious detainees, who were held in harsh conditions." Asmara has denounced such reports as "fabrications" and "childish plots by colonialists" using religious issues to "create division and conflict" in a bid to weaken the country. However rights groups point out that independent Christian and other religious groups are often viewed as a threat by autocratic regimes wanting to control people's believes and ideas.

The controversy comes at a time when President Afewerki is criticized for allagedly failing to implement other democratic reforms, as his government has clamped down on critics and  closed private press.

Eritrea has been ruled for many years by Isaias Afewerki, who was elected president by the national assembly in 1993. New presidential elections, planned for 1997, never materialised. The East African nation is a one-party state, with the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice the only party allowed to operate.

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6 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • John Humphries
    22 January 2009 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    It is indeed unfortunate that after such a long fight for independence from Ethiopia, this is the best they can do with their freedom. It appears that they have no intention of progressing from here. It is also apparent that the source of the religious restriction is from the Muslim appetite for controlling all things religious. The multi-factional influence of the region ,i.e. EIJ, EIJM, EIS, ELF…all Islamic Jihadistic factions, only serve to enforce and apply Islamic law.

    Jesus said that we would experience tribulation and sadly there is much tribulation in Eritrea today. I want to lift up these brave martyrs who have paid with their lives, making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Christ. We must all in His name be will to do the same. They have received their reward. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of a saint and we do not mourn as those without hope.

    Let us pray that as this Islamic disease spreads throughout the rest of the world that we will have the strength to stand up to the terror that follows.

  • FresnoJoe
    23 January 2009 at 8:16 am - Reply

    Amen!
    Praying

  • john smith
    27 January 2009 at 12:00 am - Reply

    on the martyrdom of Christians our faith is built.
    praise the Lord for these men and their witness.

  • Clifford
    29 January 2009 at 6:04 am - Reply

    When the church is persecuted may it grow and prosper exceedingly in His wonderful name, the name of Jesus. Change the way this government and its people think and live Heavenly Father so that You might be glorified in everyway, amen. "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in Him I will trust." Ps 91:1 – 2

  • Berry
    23 February 2009 at 9:38 am - Reply

    I dont think the 3000's are in prison because of their religion. The president of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki is a christian himself and more than half of the population in Eritrea is christians. Speaking as a eritrean i think these prisoners are taken because of their political view agianst Isaias dictatorship in Eritrea.

  • Berry
    23 February 2009 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Or i called my family back in Eritrea and they said to me that there is a type of christians in Eritrea that do not belive in Mary as Jesus mother and they spot her so that's why they got imprisoned. You may think of this as strict but it is a dictatorship…..

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  • 1999-2014 Worthy Christian News » Eritrea Christians Die In Prison, Nearly 3,000 Detained