Eritrea Intensifies Crackdown Against Orthodox Church

A watchdog group alerted that the Eritrean government has intensified persecution against Christians and is now targeting the Orthodox Church, with which it formerly had an amicable relationship.

Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, explained that the government is persecuting the Orthodox Church because of the growth and strength of its evangelism.

“It seems like where a lot of the evangelism is happening is in the Orthodox Church,” said Nettleton, according to Mission Network News on Tuesday. “It seems like the revival movement there is gaining momentum, gaining growth…It obviously makes them nervous.”

Nettleton noted that the government took over the Orthodox Church last year. Additionally, for the first time, the government is arresting some of its own employees because they are evangelical Christians, according to the VOM news director.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that hundreds of members of unregistered churches in the east African country are believed to be detained, usually without charges, for extended periods.

The Eritrean government officially recognizes the Orthodox Church of Eritrea (Coptic Orthodox), the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea – a Lutheran-affiliated denomination serving as an umbrella for some of the other small Protestant groups.

Although there is no state religion, the government is close to the Orthodox Church – the largest and oldest Christian community in the country – and is suspicious of new groups, in particular, Protestant Evangelical, Pentecostal, and other Christian denominations.
Christians are banned from holding public worship. And typical government persecution tactics include disrupting private worship, conducting mass arrests during religious weddings and prayer meetings, and detaining Christians for an unspecified amount of time.

There are more than 2,000 Christians who are under arrest in prisons and military camps throughout Eritrea because of their faith, reported VOM.

Eritrea has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a ‘country of particular concern’ for “egregious” religious freedom violations for three years in a row. It is also listed as one of the top ten Christian persecutors in International Christian Concern’s “Hall of Shame” list.

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