Eritrean Christians imprisoned for their faith temporarily freed on bail
The Eritrean government has released on bail more than twenty prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, BBC reports. The prisoners are from Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara. In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones.
In May 2019, a monitoring group for the UN reported that thousands of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continues to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.
In August of the same year, Eritrea’s Orthodox Patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he remained in detention throughout 2019.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom says Eritrea is a “Country of Particular Concern,” saying, “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. In spite of the significant regional political changes and the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world, and has shown little interest in concretely improving the situation”.
The State Department estimates there are between 1,200 and 3,000 prisoners held for their faith. USCIRF included some of those cases in its new Victims List. Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than fifteen years.