Eritrean security forces have arrested 185 Christians, mostly women, following a raid on a prayer meeting to the north of the capital, Asmara. It is believed that the Christians had gathered in the suburb of Maitemenai to pray about the worsening exodus of Eritreans from the country.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said, ‘Our Eritrean partners say church leaders fear this mass arrest could herald a new clampdown on Christians and a wave of further detentions’.
Mr Robinson pointed to findings from a recent UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, which showed that thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country every month, despite an alleged ‘shoot-to-kill policy’ targeting those who try to leave.
According to Release, which serves the persecuted church, Eritrea is currently detaining up to 1500 Christians because of their faith.
In 2002, the government shut down all other churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations, and arrested their leaders. However, even the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church went missing in 2005.
Release has asked Christians to pray for the swift release of these 185 Christians and for the release of the estimated 1500 other Christians detained in Eritrean jails.