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Eritrea denies persecution of Christians

ICC Note: Despite substantial evidence of Christians imprisoned in jails, police stations, and military camps in several towns and cities in Eritrea , the Eritrean government claims that no one and no group are persecuted in their country for their religious beliefs.

8/3/07 Eritrea (MNN) — The Eritrean government calls the reports of mass Christian detentions “hyperbole.” A senior government official categorically denies religious repression and suggests the reports are exaggerated. The government continues to support its statement issued in May 2003 that “no groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion.”

Voice of the Martyrs Canada’s Glenn Penner disagrees. Sweeping the evidence reported by international human rights Non-Governmental Organizations and local church sources under the carpet won’t change the fact that over 2,000 Christians are detained without charge or trial in Eritrea .

“The Eritrean government is still very much living in the past,” says Penner. “They haven’t come to grips with the reality of the technological age in which news of arrests does get out of countries very rapidly. I think they really do believe that if they simply say it long enough, people will actually believe them.”

Compass Direct says prisoners include dozens of pastors and priests incarcerated in jails, police stations and military camps in 14 different cities and towns, some of them for more than three years.

Eritrean security forces began a harsh crackdown against the country’s evangelical Protestant community five years ago, outlawing all churches not under the umbrella of the Orthodox, Catholic or Lutheran denominations.

Penner says while they can’t engage in open evangelistic work in Eritrea, they can send a shortwave radio Bible study broadcast into some of the military camps where Christians reside.

He notes that the government seems to be playing semantics games over the persecution. “They don’t deny that there are Christians detained, but they call them ‘members of new sects’ who are assembling illegally. So they’re saying, ‘We’re not persecuting people because they’re Christians; we’re detaining people because they’re criminals.'”

Pray that the government will stop the campaign against evangelicals and will allow freedom of religion for all.