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Eritrea Authorities Crackdown On Churches

23 September 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

“In the past few days, the government of Eritrea has ordered [the evangelical church] Kale Hiwot, Lutheran, and Catholic churches to surrender all their offices operating in the country,” said eritreanchristians.com a website investigating the plight of reportedly persecuted believers in the African nation.

“The churches have strongly objected to the order. This new development highlights the government’s determination to eliminate any form of Christian worship from Eritrea ,” the group said.

However the main target seems to be the Kale Hiwot, which had not yet been completely closed down by the government. All other known evangelical churches were already shut down, investigators said.

MANY DETAINED

Many of their leaders and church members were thrown in jail and continue to be detained under what human rights groups call “inhumane conditions” including in containers and military camps. Nearly 2,000 people, most of them Christians, are believed to be imprisoned for their faith, human rights groups and churches estimate.

The latest property confiscation ordered by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs would include all church buildings, schools, vehicles and other assets.

Christian news reports said the written confiscation order targets possessions of the Protestant church’s relief department, which for over 20 years functioned as a legally recognized non-governmental organization (NGO) under the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Commission

OFFICES RAIDED

Security police reportedly already raided and closed down the central offices of the Kale Hiwot Church in Asmara ’s Paradizo district last October. They arrested all the church’s administrators and staff , together with a few visitors present at the time. Officers also confiscated the church’s computers, office equipment and files.

Local Christians said the move was aimed at banning the church. Since May 2002, the Eritrean government banned all independent religious groups not under the umbrella of the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran or Muslim confessions. Eritrea ‘s government has denied human rights abuses saying that no groups or persons are persecuted in the country for their beliefs or religion.