30 Pentecostal Christians Jailed for Praying in Northeast African Country

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The northeastern African nation of Eritrea is continuing its tradition of persecuting any type of Christianity not authorized by the state. 

Recently more than 30 Pentecostal Christians were arrested by the country’s security forces for praying.

The religious rights group Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea told the BBC the Christians were arrested at three different locations around the capital city of Asmara.

Eritrea’s government outlawed all Pentecostal churches 17 years ago and only recognizes four faith groups, including Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Eritrea. 

Authorities say other religious groups are illegal because they are alleged to be instruments of foreign governments. 

One recent report reveals government authorities are even conducting raids targeting citizens in their own homes.  

“Police officers carry out continuous raids in private homes where devotees of unrecognized religions, especially Pentecostal Christians, meet for community prayer,” the report said. “They are released only if they disavow their faith.”

There is also increasing friction between the church and the government. The government demands complete control of all religious organizations including private schools, medical clinics, and orphanages, according to the report. The government then interferes in the organizations’ efforts to help the country’s people of which 66 percent live below the poverty line.  

A few weeks ago, police arrested 141 Christians, including 23 men, 104 women, and 14 minors, from Asmara’s Mai Temenai area. 

Eritrea, located on Africa’s Red Sea coast, is known by persecution watch organizations as the “North Korea of Africa” for its brutal regime led by President Isaias Afwerki. 

It is listed on Open Doors’ World Watch list as the number 7 top persecutor of Christians in the world. 

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