Seven Christians have reportedly been arrested and jailed after they were detained while praying on a mountain in Ethiopia's Amhara Region.
World Watch Monitor reports that the Christians were recently detained in the town of Chagni on suspicion of praying against the government.
A source told WWM that all seven were males and members of the Meserete Kristos church, an Anabaptist denomination headquartered in Ethiopia that is part of the Mennonite World Conference.
The unnamed source explained that the men were overheard while they were on their way up a mountain to pray and were followed by a local militia. The Christians reportedly "prayed against Satan's power and kingdom."
They were later accused by the militia of praying against the government.
WWM, an organization devoted to reporting on Christian persecution around the globe, explained that the Christian men have not yet been officially charged with a crime. However, they were denied bail at a hearing on Jan. 2.
The date of their next hearing remains unknown.
The arrests come as Ethiopia ranks as the 29th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to the 2018 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors USA.
Despite the fact that Ethiopia is a majority Christian country, Open Doors notes that Protestant Christians are subject to persecution from sources such as the government, Muslim extremists and even the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).
"Government regulations restrict the freedom of religion, while in some parts of the country, conservative Muslims pose challenges for believers, especially converts," Open Doors explains in a fact sheet. "Secularism, particularly government bans on religious broadcasting and religious activities within schools, restrict the freedoms of Christians to worship, teach and preach. Meanwhile, those who leave the EOC denomination face persecution from family members, communities and government officials that are members of the denomination."
Open Doors reports that Protestants who worship outside of "traditional denominations" experience the worst persecution from the government and EOC denomination.
According to a United States State Department report, the most recent survey in 2007 showed that about 44 percent of the Ethiopian population adheres to the EOC denomination, while 34 percent is Sunni Muslim and 19 percent belongs to evangelical or Pentecostal organizations.
"Arrests and disappearances of believers are common in the country, and those who leave Islam or the EOC face harsh mistreatment, sometimes being denied access to community resources," the fact sheet reads. "In some cases, Christians are cut off from society completely."
According to findings from Open Doors' 2017 reporting period, there were over 100 violent incidents against Christians recorded throughout the entire country.
One such attack occurred last June when a mob attacked a church at 8:30 in the morning and destroyed the meeting hall and attacked the parishioners, Open Doors detailed.
"They stole money from members and assaulted a few of them. One member was so badly injured by a blow to the face that his front teeth needed to be removed. The mob also destroyed the accommodation of an evangelist living on the same compound," the organization reported. "It is suspected that the attackers were incited by Mahibere Kidusan, a very organized group operating inside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to protect the traditions and dominance of the EOC in the Ethiopian society."
After the attack on the church, the evangelist was arrested by police for "illegal activities to incite religious clashes."