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Eritrea Ramps up Its Persecution of Christians

ICC Note

Eritrea has continued to clamp down on Christians in the country. Members of the Faith Mission Evangelical Church are recently targeted for persecution, as indicated in this report.

01/14/2009 Eritrea (ICFC)-ICFC has learned that the government of Eritrea has renewed its campaign of eradication against a particular evangelical church: Faith Missions. Also known as Faith Church of Christ, this church of a Methodist background has had presence in Eritrea since 1952. It operates many schools, orphanages and, until its NGO status was recently revoked, had been active in development projects.

The campaign is part of a much bigger offensive against Christians in the entire region of Zoba Anseba, an administrative region north of Asmara , the Capital. On a Sunday morning in October 2008 soldiers appeared in the village of Deki-Zeru unexpectedly where Faith Missions runs an elementary school. They rounded up all the believers as well as teachers and hauled them off to prison.

Since that Sunday, four people still remain under custody: Ato Tsegay Misghina, an 80 year old believer from the village, his wife Letens’e Tekle, the pastor whose only last name is known as Tewoldemedhin and an unnamed fourth person. ICFC’s sources in Eritrea state that the four were at first held in the same general area, but were later taken to a prison in the city of Keren . They have since been removed to an isolated prison in Ficthe Mirara. No one has been allowed to visit them.

The elderly couple is reported to have lost children who fought in Eritrea ’s war of independence. They also have children who have been conscripted and serving since 1995 in what the Eritrean government euphemistically calls “national service.”

The teachers in the elementary school in Deki-Zeru were all summarily fired when they were released from detention. By sending replacement teachers, the government has essentially taken over the school.

In addition, a recent report in one of the Eritrean websites ( states that 52 women and young girls were rounded up in the Mai JahJah neighborhood of Asmara as they were praying. The only house of worship in the area belongs to Faith Missions and has been closed since 2002. It is believed that the believers were gathering for prayer in the vicinity on the day of their arrest.

Eritrea is one of 8 countries listed by the US State Department as CPC (Countries of Particular Concern) for its flagrant abuse and persecution of Christians. Evangelical and Charismatic churches have been ordered closed since May 2002. Nearly 3500 Christians are languishing in prisons. Tens of thousands have fled the country. Scores of church leaders, including the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and priests, remain in prison.

SACS once again calls for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience and the restoration of the rights of Eritreans to worship freely.