Petros Yosief, Bemnet Tesfay, Aklilu Tesfay, Ermias Hadgu and Aron Mehretu, five pastors set to be ordained as official ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, have been arrested by security officials in Asmara, Eritrea. Reports estimate more than 1,500 Christians remain imprisoned throughout Eritrea for the expression of their faith. Often referred to as the “North Korea of Africa” and the “Great Prison,” Eritrea has, under President Isaias Afwerki’s authoritarian administration, adopted a top-down policy of religious repression, arresting and detaining Christians afilliated with unregistered house churches and Bible studies and dictating to the fourregistered religious sects how, where, and when they may practice their religion.
05/02/2014 Eritrea (ChristianToday) – Eritrea is again persecuting even officially recognised religious bodies with the arrest last week of five Christians set to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, according to Open Doors.
The Christian support organisation announced that security officials in the capital, Asmara, arrested Petros Yosief, Bemnet Tesfay, Aklilu Tesfay, Ermias Hadgu and Aron Mehretu. The arrests came shortly after the church announced on April 20 that they would be ordained for pastoral ministry.
“The arrests clearly show how even government recognised churches, namely the Catholic, [Eritrean] Orthodox [Church] and Evangelical Lutheran churches, are not free from government control,” said an Open Doors source on condition of anonymity.
Authorities in Eritrea, where an estimated 1,500 Christians are languishing in prison for their faith, are holding the would-be Evangelical Lutheran leaders at Police Station Number 2 in Asmara, according to an Open Doors press statement.
“The arrest of these pastoral candidates reminds us of one of the greatest challenges churches in Eritrea face,” said an Open Doors worker. “Due to the constant turnover of pastors due to arrest or threats, continuous and biblically consistent pastoral care for Christians is hampered.”