In May 2002, the government ordered the closure of all Eritrean churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Lutheran denominations, and effectively rendering all other churches illegal.
Since that time the government has severely persecuted evangelical Christians in particular. They are no longer allowed to hold services even in their own homes or meet in groups larger than five without risking arrest. The mere possession of a Bible can lead to arrest and in some cases, torture. It is now estimated that between 300 and 400 Christians are currently detained without charge in Eritrea .
Please continue to pray for an end to the repression, for a release of those hold captive and for reconciliation between the various churches of Eritrea .
Also, please (call or) address polite letters to the Eritrean Ambassador expressing your deep concern at the continuing harsh treatment of Christians.
Article 19 of the Eritrean Constitution allows for freedom of conscience, religion, movement, assembly, organisation and expression of opinion. Many Christians have been held without charge for months and even years, yet Article 17 of the Eritrean Constitution stipulates the right to a fair and public trial, the presumption of innocence and the right of appeal. It also states that anyone arrested should be brought before a court of law within 48 hours of their arrest, while the Eritrean Penal Code states that a person should be charged within 28 days or released.
Eritrea has also acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, all of which contain provisions for freedom of religion.
In your letter, draw attention to the governments obligations under national and international law to permit freedom of religion. Ask the Ambassador to urge his government to reconsider its policies in light of the fact that these Christians have a biblical obligation to be loyal citizens and therefore do not constitute a threat to the security or territorial integrity of the nation.
Embassy of Eritrea,
Ambassador Dirna Tesfay
Tel No (202) 319-1991
Fax No (202) 319-1304
His Excellency Mr Negassi Sengal
Embassy of the State of Eritrea
96 White Lion Street
London N1 9PF