By Francesca Merlo
That we know of, Christians under arrest because of their faith number around 150 in Eritrea. The first 70 were arrested on 23 June in Keren.
Almost 2 months later, on August 18th, 80 more were arrested in Godayef, and taken to a nearby police station before disappearing.
In an underground tunnel
The 70 prisoners arrested in June are being held in prison in Ashufera. The term “prison” refers to a number of underground tunnels that the prisoners are forced to extend, by digging, whenever more people are brought in, accoriding to the Italian online publication Tempi.
Those arrested are all members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, the last church to have been left open in the city of Keren. The 60 year old congregation had asked for official registration in 2002, though they never received any response from Eritrea’s government. After the arrest of 70 of its worshippers, the church’s school was also closed down.
On top of the 150 arrested for their faith, many more have been asked - before a judge - to renounce their faith, more specifically, to “renounce Christ.”
On August 16th, 6 Christian government employees were taken to court and asked to give up their faith. After replying that they were not willing to, they were set free, as they await a verdict.
Twenty-one Catholic-run hospitals have been closed down, the last on July 8th of this year. Each of them offered free healthcare to over 170 thousand people a year – it took a month to confiscate and close down every single one of the clinics, most in rural areas.
A law dating back to 1995 says that only the government can provide social assistance, and therefore run healthcare facilities.
But the government appears unable to do so as they continuously postpone their promised democratic reforms.