Over the past month, two Christian prayer meetings were raided by soldiers in Eritrea, Africa leading to the arrest of 35 Christ-followers – many of them women.
According to Release International, 23 people were arrested in the capital Asmara, then 12 more people were arrested during a prayer gathering in Assab.
35 Christians have been arrested in Eritrea for hosting prayer meetings – according to a persecution watchdog. @ReleaseInt says hopes of a change of heart towards Christians in the country have been dashed. Read: https://t.co/LbhJxR59ms / @UCBMedia pic.twitter.com/yAD3zPIskM
— UCB News (@UCBNewsTeam) March 31, 2021
Of the Christians arrested in Asmara, 22 were released from Mai Sarawa prison on April 11, however, it is not known why one Christian remains in captivity.
The 12 arrested in Assab are reportedly being held in a remote area of the city and under harsh conditions, the Barnabas Fund reports.
Eritrean church leader Dr. Berhane Asmelash requested prayers for the Christians still imprisoned and for their families as they anxiously await their release.
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"Pray for all Eritrea, for a change of policy, for democracy and freedom of worship," Dr. Asmelash said. "Unless there is a change of policy these will continue to be dangerous times for Christians in Eritrea, where many are suffering for their faith."
Eritrea remains one of the worst countries in the world for people of faith. It ranks 6th on Open Doors' 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
"Eritrea has been likened to the North Korea of Africa," says Release International CEO Paul Robinson. "Release continues to press the government to release its prisoners of faith – every one of them. We urge Eritrea to repeal its restrictive religious laws and grant full freedom of faith to its citizens."
Eritrea's government outlawed all Pentecostal churches nearly 20 years ago and only recognizes four faith groups, including Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Eritrea.
Authorities say other religious groups are illegal because they are alleged to be instruments of foreign governments.
Reports reveal that government authorities are even conducting raids targeting citizens in their own homes.