By Joseph C. DeCaro, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent with BosNewsLife Africa Service
ASMARA, ERITREA (BosNewsLife)– Eritrean security forces have detained nearly a dozen Christians, taking them to undisclosed locations, local Christians and rights activists said in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, November 4.
Eleven Christians from the areas of Mendefera, Dekemharre and Dibarwa were arrested October 20 on orders of Mustafa Nurhussein, the governor of the Southern Zone province, who has demanded a crackdown on devoted Christians living in his province, said International Christian Concern, a major advoacy group investigating the case. The names of the Christians were not released.
Most of the detained Christians are members of the Full Gospel Church that was banned back in 2002, Christians said. Eritrea only recognizes four religious groups including Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. However, even members of recognized religions havn’t escaped persecution, according to church observers.
In May 2007, Eritrean officials put Abune Antonios, patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, under house arrest, where he still remains today.
Eritrea officials have arrested thousands of Christians, holding them inside metal shipping containers, barracks and underground dungeons where at least several have died from torture and other harsh conditions, church groups and rights activists say.
“We are saddened to hear about the detention of the 11 Christians,” said ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, . “Eritrean officials have continued to mistreat Christians in the country for choosing to practice their faith. We ask Eritrea to immediately release the 11 Christians and the more than 3,000 others who are illegally detained.”
Eritrean officials have not yet commented on the latest case, but in the past officials have defended the policy saying they want to protect the country against foreign inspired “dangerous sects”.
Last year, the Eritrean leadership reportedly urged citizens to report any “illegal” gatherings of Christians in their neighbourhoods, which it described as “criminal acts” deserving “to be punished by law.” (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).