The Eritrean government has arrested and detained 30 elderly Christian women who are members of the Faith Mission Church, a group started by the Methodist Church in Africa.
The women are being held without charge by the district office of the federal security service.
International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho says the arrests are part of a pattern of oppression.
“Eritrea has been cracking down on evangelical Christians and the government has already imprisoned other evangelical Christians. These women are just added on to the other evangelical Christians the government has thrown into prison,” Racho explained.
Racho adds that the officials usually don’t file charges on Christians.
“Right now they’re not charged with any crime. They don’t want to see Christianity growing in their country, so they just arrest Christians without charge,” Racho said.
Racho added that the women’s conditions are probably extreme.
“In Eritrea, Christians are locked up in either shipping containers and underground dungeon-like conditions. The situations for Christians in Eritrea are actually horrible, especially when arrested and held by the police,” Racho stated. “We have information that many times, Christians are killed while in prison.”
Racho added that this time, Islam is not the reason for the government’s actions.
“The government is communist and follows Marxist ideology. Communism doesn’t accept Christianity so Eritrean officials are cracking down on Christian groups,” Racho explained.
Brett Schaefer of The Heritage Foundation adds that this incident is consistent with Eritrea’s recent actions.
“Eritrea has become more isolated, not only on the international stage, but in Africa as well,” Schaefer said. “Their government is totalitarian. Everything else is pretty much window dressing.”
“Eritrea has been a destabilizing element on the Horn of Africa, supporting Islamic extremist groups in Somalia to attack the government in Somalia [and] to attack the African Union peacekeeping force sent there to help the Somali government,” Schaefer explained.
Churches officially registered are the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea.
Schaefer said the arrest of 30 elderly Christian women may not have anything to do with their being in an unrecognized group.
“I don’t know their motivation, but it would not be out of character with the
government of Eritrea to arrest any group or person it deems disruptive or a threat in any way to the government,” Schaefer explained.
The Joshua Project, a religious research group, estimates that 48 percent of Eritreans are Muslim, 47.4 percent are Christian, with 86 percent of the Christians affiliating with the Eritrean Orthodox Church.