Eritrean Christians released from shipping container prisons

Source: Religion News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) – Eritrean Christians and human rights advocates are cheering the release of 35 Christian prisoners as a new peace pact between Eritrea and Ethiopia takes hold this month. But hundreds remain imprisoned in Eritrea under harsh conditions stemming from a war in which members of Christian sects were targeted for mass incarceration.

Ethiopia Eritrea New Friends

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, left, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 15, 2018. Official rivals just weeks ago, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. A visibly moved Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, clasping his hands over his heart, addressed the crowd in Ethiopia’s official language, Amharic, on his first visit to the country in 22 years. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

 

For the last two decades, Eritrean authorities have persecuted religious groups, frequently arresting church leaders and detaining them in small shipping container prisons where advocates say they’re routinely deprived of water, food, proper sanitation and medicines. The roundup traces to a 2002 law that permits the operation of only a handful of religious groups: Orthodox Christian, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, along with Sunni Islam.

Since then, the government has cracked down on evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are seen as foreign-influenced threats to security and Eritrean autonomy. Seen as relative newcomers to the religious landscape, they’re accused of using aggressive evangelistic tactics and causing social divisions.

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