More than two dozen Pentecostal Christians were reportedly arrested in recent days as the crackdown against nondenominational Christianity in the northeast African nation of Eritrea continues.
Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea told BBC that over 30 Christians were rounded up and detained while praying in three different locations in the nation’s capital of Asmara.
The BBC report follows reports from human rights watchdogs earlier in the month that stated that over 141 Christians were arrested on May 10 in the Mai Temenai area of Asmara on May 10.
The Eritrean government, which has been run by President Isaias Afwerki since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993, only recognizes four religious affiliations — Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islami, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea and the Catholic Church.
Afwerki is reportedly a member of the Orthodox church.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Eritrean government highly regulates religious practice to the extent that there is “little to no freedom of religion or belief for people outside the four officially recognized faith communities.”
But even the officially recognized religious bodies in the country have suffered from government interference as the government demands full control of religious organizations and their entities that include schools, clinics, and orphanages, reports the Catholic nonprofit news website Zenit.
Eritrea, which has a population that is about half Christian and half Muslim, has been recognized by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for egregious violations of religious freedom since 2004.
According to nonprofit Release International, about one out of 12 Eritreans has fled the country and gone to other African nations or Italy.
The 141 Christians arrested earlier in May were detained after gathering for a private meeting ahead of the country’s Independence Day, Release reported.
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Source: Christian Headlines