Fifty young Christians released in Eritrea
A party of 103 young Christian musicians, some of whom were students from the Mai-Nefhi technical college, were arrested in the Eritrean capital of Asmara this April.
They wanted to sing, record and share songs of praise via YouTube. The group had not been members of a government-approved church, hence their meeting was deemed illegal. Local authorities jumped at the opportunity to arrest all the youngsters.
According to local reports, these Christians were incarcerated in the notorious Mai Serwa prison.
Dr. Berhane Asmelash from Release Eritrea – a global partnership of Eritrean Evangelicals standing in solidarity with the persecuted Eritrean church – recently announced that about 50 of the imprisoned young Christians have been released from custody.
Thousands of Eritrean Christians have been sent to prison, often held inhumanely in metal shipping containers and subjected to strained conditions and torture since 2002. The majority of the detained are not formally charged. Authorities rather keep them imprisoned for years without a trial.
Even though the real number of incarcerated Christians is unknown, it is estimated to be over 500. Most prisoners are believed to be Pentecostal or of other evangelical denominations. They are often arrested under brutal conditions. The government keeps their families in the dark, causing long-term suffering and anxiety by not knowing where their loved ones are located or if they are still alive.
Since Evangelical churches are highly persecuted, believers meet in secret. The government actively infiltrates these underground churches and imprison their leaders. The conditions inside the country’s prisons are some of the harshest in the world. Christian prisoners are provided inadequate rations and treated extremely poorly.
Eritrea is one of the most isolated countries of the world. In 2002, the government outlawed every religion except for Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran Church. All other religious groups are illegal, and the government heavily controls approved churches. Many Eritreans fled the country as a result of Communism, required military service and economic depression. Despite all the challenges and dangers, underground churches continue to grow.