Eritrea

200+ arrested, including children

Eritrea flag

Eritrea has stepped up its campaign against Christians, arresting 218 in the past 12 months – some along with their children. 

This latest crackdown means that around 400 Christians are currently imprisoned – indefinitely, without trial or charge – because of their faith. 

UK-based Release International (RI), which serves the persecuted church worldwide, say 110 Christians were seized between January and May.

‘Most were taken from their houses – some at 3am,’ says RI partner Dr Berhane Asmelash, a former prisoner of faith.

‘In the last round of arrests some children have been arrested with their parents, and in some cases the whole family is in prison.

Children arrested

Dr Berhane 249x305px

‘We are very concerned for the physical and mental wellbeing of the children, some of whom are only two years old. This is totally unacceptable, and we strongly condemn this inhuman act by the Eritrean government.’

According to Dr Berhane, most of those recently arrested are being held at Mai Serewa prison, while others have been sent to jails around the country.

Eritrea, in the horn of Africa, is a single-party state headed by Isaias Afwerki, who came to power in 1993. He cancelled elections pledged for 1997 and suspended the country’s draft democratic constitution.

In 2002, the regime banned most Christian denominations. Since then, it has rounded up Christians and jailed them indefinitely without trial.

Some have been behind bars for more than 20 years. A number have been held in steel shipping containers in the heat of the desert. Many have been tortured and some have died from abuse and untreated illness.

Some have been forced to renounce their faith to be released. Eritrea is often described as ‘the North Korea of Africa’.

Biography

Brother I Have Come To Arrest You Cover

Release International has just published the biography of Dr Asmelash, Brother, I have come to arrest you. It tells the story of his own arrest, torture and imprisonment because of his faith in Christ.

Dr Berhane spent time with prisoners who were on death row and led some to faith. He was subject to a mock execution. Several times he could have escaped, but felt God wanted him to remain to serve the prisoners.

When he was finally able to leave the country, he came to Britain and has campaigned tirelessly since for the persecuted church in Eritrea.

Brother, I have come to arrest you is endorsed by Fiona Bruce MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

She says, ‘This book needed to be written – and needs to be read. The world should know of the suffering and bravery of thousands of Eritreans, barbarically imprisoned, tortured, and killed – simply on account of their beliefs.’

Wake-up call

Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International adds: ‘This book serves as a wake-up call to the Church in the free world, to truly value our freedom and to use it effectively for the gospel.’

Release International has campaigned for many years for Eritrea to grant full freedom of worship for all its citizens. And for the release of every Christian locked up in its jails.

Brother, I Have Come to Arrest You is available from the Release International online shop for £10, including postage and packing.

Release International is running an appeal to support Christians around the world who face oppression and violence because of their faith.

RI is active in some 30 countries. It works through partners to prayerfully, pastorally, and practically support the families of Christian martyrs, prisoners of faith and their families. It also supports Christians suffering oppression and violence, and those forced to flee.