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A human rights organization is issuing an alarm over the number of Christians who have been locked up in Eritrea, where government officials have given them the ultimatum, “Renounce your faith or stay in prison.”
Citing data from the U.S. State Department, International Christian Concern says Christians have been arrested and held without charge, and conditions are deteriorating.
Sources report more than 3,000 have been put behind bars, the report said.
“According to the report by the United States State Department released yesterday, the government of Eritrea ‘demonstrated a trend toward deterioration in respect for religious freedom,'” the ICC report said.
The State Department also said the Eritrean government “subjected religious prisoners to harsh conditions and held them for long periods of time without due process.”
International Christian human rights group Christian Solidarity International documents Eritrea’s incarceration rate in a separate report.
“There are 20,000 people imprisoned in Eritrea – often referred to as the North Korea of Africa,” the report said.
Christians are a large part of the prison population, and they often are held without due process, according to the report.
“Between 2,000 and 3,000 of them are Christians, imprisoned in inhumane conditions – without trial or charge – in detention centers where torture is rife,” CSI said. “Thousands of Eritreans flee every year, risking the government’s shoot-to-kill border policy in appalling bids for freedom.”
The report continued: “Even if they manage to escape, as refugees they often face desperate and dangerous conditions, as well as the threat of kidnap, torture and forcible organ harvesting by Bedouin people traffickers in the Sinai.”
Jonathan Racho, the Middle East analyst for ICC, said the reason for the government’s action isn’t complicated.
“Their goal is to get the Christians to renounce their faith,” Racho said.
The government, he said, is communist and doesn’t like competition.
“The communist officials are enraged to see millions of Eritreans worship God instead of worshiping communism,” Racho said.
He said the best thing Christians can do is pray, then act.
“ICC is alarmed by this latest report about the Christians in Eritrea. It is high time for the international community to pressure Eritrea to release the prisoners,” he said.
Eritrea occupies slightly more than 115,000 square miles along the Red Sea on the northern edge of Ethiopia. The CIA Fact Book says the country has a “transitional government,” and a legislature that is made up “entirely of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ.”
WND reported in December 2009 that the Eritrean government arrested 30 women members of a faith mission and detained them in shipping containers for several weeks.