March 21, 2005 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- The last 30 from a group of 131 Sunday school leaders and children have been released from custody, but a further church leader has been arrested.
The children were attending their classes at an Eritrean Orthodox church in the capital Asmara when they were rounded up by police on February 19.
They were taken to a police station where their names and addresses were registered and children as young as two were held for three hours. The remaining 30 have now all been released.
In a further development of concern however, a senior church leader has been snatched by police from the streets of the capital.
Kidane Weldou, senior Pastor of Muluwengel (Full Gospel) church in Asmara, was stopped on the streets on March 18.
Pastor Kidane was taken into custody and the car that he was using was found abandoned nearby. It was confirmed over the weekend that neither his family nor the Church have been informed of his whereabouts or of the charges against him.
Other senior figures from the same church have been in custody for almost 11 months.
In a statement, Dr Berhane Asmelash, co-ordinator of Release-Eritrea, an NGO campaigning for religious freedom in Eritrea, said: “I am saddened to see yet another arrest, which makes it clear that far from relenting on this, the Government of Eritrea is intensifying the purge. I hope all Eritreans, friends of Eritrea and the international community will take this up on behalf of the voiceless Eritrean Church.”
Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, added: “While we are relieved all those arrested in February have now been released, this latest arrest of a church leader concerns us deeply. The Eritrean regime seems to be pursuing with impunity an increasingly aggressive campaign against the churches.”
For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk You can also visit www.release-eritrea.org.uk for more information on the persecution of Christians in Eritrea.