By BosNewsLife News Center
ASMARA, ERITREA (BosNewsLife) -- Twenty Christians, including young children, were reportedly still missing Wednesday, June 13, more than two weeks after being detained by Eritrean security forces for allegedly attending a prayer meeting of a banned independent church.
The believers, who were detained 17 days ago, were members of the Kale Hiwott Church, one of several churches affected by a government decree of 2002 outlawing most independent denominations, said Christian broadcaster and news service Mission Network News (MNN).
Human rights watchdog Release-Eritrea UK reportedly said that security forces raiding a Christian home expected to find Christians participating in a prayer meeting.
When police "failed to uncover such activity", they "decided to detain everyone" in the home and surrounding neighborhood, MNN quoted the watchdog as saying.
A spokesman of Christian rights group 'Voice Of the Martyrs' (VOM), Todd Nettleton, said it was "not uncommon" in Eritrea "that a church was raided." However he told MNN that "it is uncommon that they took these children into custody as well. What danger, what threat could these Christian children be to the Eritrean government or to the nation?"
Since the government closed independent churches in Eritrea, about 2,000 believers have been held in prisons, according to several human rights groups. One in ten Eritrean evangelicals are presently being detained, MNN and other groups said.
Eritrea's government has denied wrongdoing saying it says it wants to protect the country against dangerous sects.
However Nettleton said that persecution is intensifying, "with deaths" now being reported along with detainment. However claimed that Christians "respond to this courageously as they have responded to all of the persecution that they have faced in the last five years." Nettleton said he had asked supporters to pray for the detained Christians. (With reports from Eritrea and BosNewsLife Research).