ASMARA, Eritrea (ChurchMilitant.com) - More than 150 African Christians have been arrested and detained in unsanitary and inhumane conditions for gathering to worship without government consent.
Government officials in Eritrea, a country in northeast Africa, have arrested more than 150 Christians since June 23, holding some of them in an underground prison.
The most recent arrests occurred Aug. 18, when security officials took into custody 80 Christians in Godayef; these Christians are still being held at the local police station.
Prior to those arrests, 70 members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ were arrested June 23.
Those arrested in June, of whom 35 were women and 10 were children, were taken to Ashufera Prison, which is an underground prison made of tunnels. The conditions are unsanitary and the treatment is harsh and inhumane.
The regime treats those that gather without consent as traitors who are conspiring with the West, especially Christians whom the government sees as Western spies, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
Church Militant spoke with Nathan Johnson, ICC's regional manager for Africa, about this persecution in Eritrea:
It is truly sad that Christians in Eritrea continue to suffer under the reign of tyranny by Isaias Afwerki. Thousands of our brothers and sisters have been arrested and have died in prisons over the past 17 years. The Eritrean government must be held accountable by the world for the constant and horrifying violation of human rights, including religious freedom violations, that it continually commits. Please continue to pray for those who cannot worship freely due to oppression at the hands of their own governments.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a video on political prisoners in October 2018:
The regime does not permit any independent reporting or attempts to change the situation politically, which leads to journalists and politicians being arrested as well.
Isaias Afwerki, the leader of Eritrea's only political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, has been in power since after the Eritrean War of Independence in 1993.
The United Nations and Amnesty International have cited Afwerki for human rights violations.
It seemed Afwerki's totalitarian and inhumane regime would improve after Eritrea and Ethiopia ended their border war by signing a five-point declaration for a new era of peace in July 2018, Eritrea and Somalia resumed diplomatic relations after 15 years in August 2018 and the United Nations lifted a nine-year arms embargo in November 2018; however, this has not been the case.
Some have called Eritrea "Africa's North Korea."
Open Doors — an organization that serves in over 60 countries supplying Bibles, training church leaders, providing emergency relief and supporting Christians who suffer for their faith — publishes an annual World Watch List to rank the top 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
The 2019 World Watch List ranks Eritrea in seventh place; North Korea holds first place.