100 Christians Detained In Eritrea; Orthodox Patriarch Marks 10th Year Under House Arrest

Eritrea may have proven once again that it deserves its nickname as the "North Korea of Africa."

Eritrean Christians worship in Egyptian prison
Eritrean Christians in Egyptian prison worship together. |

Just like its despotic East Asian counterpart, the regime in this East African country has been accused of stepping up its campaign against Christians, arresting almost 100 of them in the past month, World Watch Monitor reported.

The arrests were made 10 years after the dictatorial regime of President Isaias Afwerki placed Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch (Abune) Antonios under house arrest, and also 15 years after the forced closure of many churches in the country.

Patriarch (Abune) Antonios, who turns 90 in July, is also being held incommunicado in a location known only to the authorities.

His family and friends have expressed concern that the Patriarch, who is reportedly diabetic, may not be receiving adequate medical treatment.

The latest arrests were made early last month ahead of Eritrea's Independence Day on May 24.

A source told World Watch Monitor that 49 Evangelicals were arrested outside the capital, Asmara, on May 21 at a post-wedding celebration where the couple were among those picked up and detained.

Four days before that, security officials arrested more than 35 Christians from their homes in Adi Quala, a market town not far from the Ethiopian border.

Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been living in fear in Eritrea since 2002 when a law was passed prohibiting churches other than the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches, and also Sunni Islam.

However, as the Patriarch's house arrest shows, even members of permitted churches face arrest if they criticize the regime.

Eritrea has been described as among the harshest dictatorships in the world, according to Haaretz.

A special permit is required to go to a friend's house for dinner if the meal is to be attended by at least three guests from different families. This is because the authorities already consider it a gathering that requires a special permit, according to the Israeli news outlet.

The group Reporters Without Borders ranks Eritrea the 179th out of 179 countries when it comes to the lack of freedom of expression, even lower than hermit communist country North Korea.

Eritrea is also ranked as the 10th most difficult country for a Christian to live in, according to the Open Doors' 2017 World Watch List.

Last month, 10 Christians - four women and six men - were reportedly arrested by security officers in Eritrea for still undetermined charges, according to the Christian persecution watchdog.

Open Doors reports that Christian prisoners in Eritrea are locked up in shipping containers with little ventilation, if at all, and many have died as a result.

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