May 28, 2013 by Open Doors

Persecution in Eritrea at its ‘Highest Level Ever’

“If I am to describe the situation of religious persecution in Eritrea, I would say it is still at its highest level ever and getting worse,” an Eritrean Christian leader told Open Doors last week. The leader, who remains anonymous for security reasons, said the atmosphere in Eritrea remains very tense for Christians as the government continues what has been called their most serious campaign against the Church yet. Open Doors learned authorities have continued the campaign against the Christians last week by arresting 37 Christian students from the College of Arts and Social Sciences in the town of Adi Kihe (Adi Keyih), almost 70 miles southwest of Asmara. It is understood that the students have been taken to the military camp in Dekemhare.

Authorities in Asmara also arrested five men from the Church of the Living God last week. Sources do not know where they are being kept. These arrests bring to 191 the number of Christians taken in since the beginning of the year. Open Doors has not been notified of any releases and understands  that all are still being kept under very harsh imprisonment conditions, with many suffering from very poor health. Earlier this month Amnesty International (AI), released its report on Eritrea, in which it describes widespread human rights abuses by the government. The report documents how the government has been using “arbitrary arrest and detention without trial on a vast scale to crush all actual and suspected opposition, to silence government critics and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the restrictions on human rights imposed by the government.” The practice, according to the report, started immediately after independence in 1991 and continues  today.

Apart from listing the human rights abuses performed against political opposition, the report also documents the abuses faced by members of unregistered religious groups. The number of Christians incarcerated in Eritrea is a contentious issue. Although there are those who estimate the number of Christians imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea at as many as 3,000, Open Doors sources estimate the number to be considerably less, probably at about 1,200 after the extensive arrest campaign that started at the beginning of the year. Eritrea is ranked No. 10 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

Open Doors Requests Prayers for Kazakhstan Pastor

Please pray for Bahytzhan Kashkumbaev, who is the former head of a religious association “Astana charitable mission of Grace” and now pastor of the Grace Church in Astana, Kazakhstan. Recently he was arrested by the police in the city of Astana, capital of Kazakhstan. He was arrested on suspicion of having committed an offense as intentional infliction of harm. The police said a criminal case was opened in October 2012 “on the fact of causing the harm to the mental health of one of the member of the Grace Church.”
At this time, Bahytzhan is living in a temporary detention of the Department of Internal Affairs in Astana. An investigation is under way. Earlier, the police of Astana city reported that the pastor of Grace Church during a communion service was giving the congregation a drink that causes hallucinations. One of the parishioners of the church, a 34-year-old resident of the capital, was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital with a diagnosis of “paranoid schizophrenia at high risk” after a church service. Please pray that the truth would be found in this case and Bahytzhan would be released from detention. Would you please pray for a mild reaction to the accusation from non-Christians.. Many people in Kazakhstan believe that any Protestant church is a cult or sect where during the service worshippers become like zombies.

(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).

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