By Worthy News Africa Service
ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)-- Security forces in Eritrea have detained dozens, mostly elderly, Christian women in the capital Amara as part of a crackdown on evangelical activities, an advocacy group said Monday, December 7.
U.S.-based International Christian Concern (ICC), which has close knowledge about the situation, said officials of Eritrea arrested 30 Christian who were praying together at a house . “Security forces rounded them up and hauled them” to a police station, ICC said. “Their children and grandchildren told our sources that they are concerned about the safety of their loved ones.”
Most of the detainees are reportedly members of Faith Mission Church, an Evangelical Church with a Methodist background. The church has been carrying out evangelistic and development activities in Eritrea for over five decades and was “forced to go underground “in 2002 after Eritrea's government required all religious groups to register, ICC said.
Eritrea only allowed the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea and Muslim groups to register, although within recognized Christian churches leaders have also complained of harassment.
"Since 2002, officials of Eritrea have been cracking down on members of both registered and unregistered churches," ICC confirmed. At least 3,000 Christians are believed to be detained, including in underground dungeons, mental shipping containers, and military barracks, several churches and groups say. Several Christians have reportedly died inside prisons due to torture and lack of medical attention.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa and South Asia, Jonathan Racho said his group condemns the arrest of the 30 women. "We urge officials of Eritrea to release the detainees and all the imprisoned Christians in the country. We call upon Eritrea to stop violating the freedom of religion of its people."
Eritrea's government has denied any wrongdoing, saying it wants to protect the country against "dangerous" sects. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).