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Refugees From Eritrea , A Young State Riven With Conflict And Divided By Faith

ICC Note

Large numbers of Eritreans flee their country to settle in Western countries like Britain . Growing persecution against Christians is one of the primary reasons for the exodus. The main reason behind persecution of Christians in the country is due to the Marxist ideology that the government of Eritrea is pursuing.

By Catherine Philp

06/04/2008 Eritrea (Timeonline)-It is a testament to the troubled history of Eritrea that no one seems sure exactly how many of its people have left to start new lives elsewhere.

Even after independence in 1993, arriving Eritrean refugees were often listed simply as “Ethiopian”. When Eritrea finally won its own listing, it quickly sprinted up the Home Office’s chart of top asylum-seeking nationalities. A total of 2,195 Eritreans applied for asylum in Britain last year, a number exceeded only by asylum-seekers from Afghanistan and Iran . The vast majority who come to Britain stay in London , where they have formed close-knit communities, centred around their places of worship. The four million-strong population of Eritrea is split almost evenly between Christians, the natives of the highlands, and Muslim coastal dwellers. Arsema was a member of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the largest and oldest Christian Church in the country and one of the oldest in the world.

Recent religious repression has meant Eritrea is wrongly portrayed as a Muslim state that persecutes Christians. In reality, it is the Orthodox Church’s antipathy towards new evangelical groups that has inspired much of the persecution. When the Government introduced legislation in 2002, forcing all religious organisations to register, it seized the opportunity to shut down the growing number of Pentecostal churches, citing such groups as a threat to national security, along with extremist Islamist groups. Mass arrests have taken place at weddings, services and Bible-study meetings, and thousands are in jail for their political beliefs. At least four evangelical Christians have been tortured to death.

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