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Delegates at the International Christian Human Rights Conference were challenged not to stand in silence today after hearing powerful accounts from speakers from the persecuted church.

Dr Berhane Asmelash of Eritrea used his medical skills to serve his church and his country and then later as a church leader came to the UK for theological training. Today he is unable to return to Eritrea as it would almost certainly result in his imprisonment and probable torture.

Some 400 people are imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea since an edict in May 2002 banned all but three Christian denominations; Orthodox, Lutheran Evangelical and Roman Catholics. He explained how some Christians are tortured in prison and others exposed to malaria-carrying mosquitos and locked in shipping containers in soaring temperatures.

He said: “People are only released if they agree to renounce their faith. Please pray for the government to reverse the edict and reopen places of worship. Please also pray for those in prison. We need to pray for people to speak out and not just to ignore the situation – they can make a difference.”