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Eritrea Authorities “Kill” Christians, Detain over 160 Believers

30 October 2006

BosNewsLife

Eritrean authorities killed two Christians and detained over 160 other Christian believers from at least five of the country’s banned churches as part of an ongoing crackdown on evangelicals in the African nation, news reports said Monday, October 30.

Since early Wednesday, October 25, security officers in the town of Mendefera reportedly began house searches, arresting local Christians from a list they compiled of known members of Pentecostal churches and the Orthodox renewal movement.

Initially a total of 38 men and 17 women were incarcerated at the military fort in Mendefera, 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of the capital Asmara , Compass Direct News

agency quoted local sources as saying.

Police allegedly subjected the detained Christians to beatings and other physical mistreatment. At least 10 nursing mothers were among the new prisoners, all of them forced to leave their infants behind, local Christians claimed.

Compass Direct News, which investigates reports of persecution, said the arrested Christians included members of the Church of the Living God as well as the Kale Hiwot, Full Gospel, and Rema churches. Active members of the town’s Orthodox revival group were also reportedly detained.

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS

The following morning, October 26, a total of 95 evangelical Christians were reportedly put under arrest. Of the 162 Christians arrested this month; two young men were beaten to death at a military camp near Adi-Quala on October 17, two days after their arrest, Compass Direct News said, quoting sources requesting anonymity.

In addition a local pastor jailed in Mendefera eight months ago was recently hospitalized with severe injuries apparently from mistreatment, news reports said.

Pastor Iyob Berhe from the Kale Hiwot Church underwent harsh military punishments requiring emergency medical treatment in the Mendefera Public Hospital , Compass Direct News claimed.

Berhe has since been transferred back to the Mendefera police station, where he remains under arrest, allegedly for refusing to sign papers recanting his evangelical beliefs and activities.

Last week’s arrests push the confirmed number of Eritrean citizens known to be jailed solely for their religious beliefs up to 2,078, according to estimates.

RELIGIOUS PRISONERS

Human rights groups say most prisoners are Christians, but include also some Muslims. None of those incarcerated have so far been brought to trial by the Eritrean government, Christians say.

In May 2002, Eritrea closed down all independent religious groups not operating under the umbrella of the government-sanctioned Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran or Muslim faiths.

Independent Protestant churches have been refused legal registration, and even the Orthodox Church’s patriarch and its flourishing renewal movement have fallen out of favor, observers say.

The Eritrean government has denied any wrongdoing and says it wants to protect the country against dangerous sects. Anyone caught worshipping outside the four recognized religious institutions, even in private homes, has been subjected to arrest, torture and severe pressure to deny their faith, news reports said.