Nearly 100 Eritrean Christians Arrested for Attending Illegal Church Denominations

The country of Eritrea is the 10th harshest persecutor of Christians in the world, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. And last month, another blow was struck on religious freedom in the country.

Nearly 100 Christians were arrested as the paranoid Eritrean government cracks down on unapproved churches outside the four approved religious denominations. The arrests resulted from door-to-door interrogations, accusations from neighbors, and even the disruption of a post-wedding gathering.

Open Doors USA’s Emily Fuentes explains, “In Eritrea, the situation at surface level would seem like there’s religious freedom. They allow for certain denominations of Christians to meet openly…. So, [for example], the Orthodox churches are totally okay in Eritrea. The problem is, anyone who is not part of a particular denomination that is approved by the government — and there’s only four — if they meet in their homes, if they do anything, it’s considered a crime.”

The four allowed religious denominations in the country are Sunni Islam, Orthodox Christian, Catholic Christian, and Evangelical Lutheran. But the Eritrean government still seeks to have a vice grip of control over even the approved denominations.

In 2007, political authorities went so far as to depose the Patriarch Abune Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. He is still under house arrest 10 years later, and friends and family worry that his health may be failing without proper medical care.

Antonios had upset the government when he refused to “excommunicate 3,000 members of the Medhane Alem Orthodox Sunday School revival movement, and demanded that the government release imprisoned Christians accused of treason,” according to World Watch Monitor.

This move by the Eritrean government violated the Orthodox Church’s constitution. Antonios is still recognized by Eritrean Churches in Diaspora and by Oriental Orthodox Churches as the rightful EOC Patriarch.

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SOURCE: Mission Network News
Lyndsey Koh