By BosNewsLife Correspondents Eric Leijenaar with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
ASMARA, ERITREA (BosNewsLife)– Authorities in Eritra have detained dozens of Christians during a church service as part of a major crackdown on Christian worship, shortly after news emerged that at least two believers died this month in a military concentration camp, rights investigators told BosNewsLife Thursday, January 29.
Netherlands based Open Doors, which supports Christians in Eritrea and other countries, said 27 believers were detained Sunday, January 25, by police while “celebrating the Lord’s Supper,” a reference to what many churches view as the last meal Jesus shared with his twelve disciples before his death, but also celebrated by evangelicals as communion with the “risen Lord.”
Open Doors said the latest arrests brings the number of Christians detained since October to “over 300,” while in total “nearly 3,000 Christian believers” are be behind bars. Many of are reportedly held in camps and prisons, but advocacy groups claim believers have also been locked up in shipping containers.
The 20 men and seven women detained Sunday, January 25, were reportedly still behind bars Thursday, January 29, at a local police station and were allegedly beaten. More details over there exact whereabouts were not immediately released, apparently because of security concerns.
January was reportedly a difficult month for Christians in Eritrea. Two men, identified as Mogos Hagos Kiflom, 37, and Mehari Gebreneguse Asgedom, 42, died this month in the Mitire Camp, located in north-west Eritrea, described by Christians as a “new military concentration camp” notorious for abuses.
Asgedom, a member of the evangelical Church of the Living God in Mendefera, reportedly died January 16, of torture and complications from diabetes. His death came after fellow Christian Kiflom was said to have died as a result of torture he endured for refusing to recant his faith, Open Doors said.
Open Doors told BosNewsLife earlier that in October Teklesenbet Gebreab Kiflom, 36, died while imprisoned for his faith at the Wi’a Military Confinement center. He was reported to have died after prison commanders refused to give him medical attention for malaria.
Open Doors said it fears that more Christians will soon face mistreatment and detention, as authorities have allegedly stepped up raids in especially house churches. “Nearly 3.000 Christenen are now jailed in Eritrea because they belong to the ‘wrong’ church,” Open Doors said. Many of them are evangelical Christians, who emphasize a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” rather than religious rituals, BosNewsLife learned.
Since 2002 only the traditional Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches have been allowed, although recently some members of the evangelical Faith of Christ Church were reportedly released. Open Doors said their freedom was believed to have been a result of interference by the Religious Affairs Ministry, who apparently concluded that the Christians were not dangerous.
U.S. officials have expressed concerns over “reports of forced recantations of faith and torture of religious detainees, who were held in harsh conditions.” However Asmara has denounced such reports as “fabrications” and “childish plots by colonialists” using religious issues to “create division and conflict” in a bid to weaken the country.
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerk has also been criticized for allegedly failing to implement other democratic reforms, as his government has reportedly clamped down on critics and closed private press. Afewerki has dismissed the allegations.
Hey Bosnewslife, are you a fellow christians like Eritrean orthodox or just bible bashers,rapests, war and fear mongers? have been followed your articles from time to time, but like alqaida you are preachers of hate and traders of shamefull lies in the name of god.
Never in my life have I encountered an inept media hell bent on creating havoc and fales information for the sake of few who are more christians than true christians. Eritreans are every were simply because of your errenouse christain belive that does not accommodate other faiths baisically you are a tool of neo colonialist who are more rightouse than god.
in the name of the holly god i beg you to stop your corocodile tears and fears. Please shed some tears to your fellow american who does not have proper medical care, support the mothers who are given birth to addicted children. All in all America can not teach us about god after all american sysytem is geared against all sysytems and all denomiation.
Dear ‘True christian’,
Your words seem to echo almost exactly those we hear from the government. Most likely you are working for the government or at least are a hard core supporter. I wouldn’t describe a story about roughly 3,000 people detained for their faith in Eritrea as “corocodile tears and fears.” We are seriously concerned about reported persecution in Eritrea. It’s something you obviously don’t want to hear. Also: Except for our server, BosNewsLife News Agency has it’s news headquarters in Budapest, Hungary. It sounds therefore a odd that you view our reports as teaching an “all American system.” However it that system means true democracy and respect for human rights, we fully embrace it. It is, unlike Eritrea, at least a country where people can openly discuss concerns over detention centers, including at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, which the new president wants to close.
Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife News Center
It is clear that “True Christian” has got a made up mind that has been ill informed. It is known that evangelical christians are persecuted in Eritrea. It is clear that “True Christian” may not have even ever contacted an evangelical christian. I must point out to “True Christian” that not every evenagelical christian is American. I am a Sierra Leonean by birth and a British citizen who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, who died for my sins and came to bring relationship with the Father and not religion.
I am astonished by the audcaity of the person who is calling for the persecution of people for their religion, to call him/hersef “True Christian”. I have never heard of any christian who is overjoyed by the suffering of his fellow countrymen. “True christian”, I would rather call you ‘spiGNo tebaho” because you simply absorb whatever propaganda you are fed by Eri-TV, I mean Eri-TB.