July 30 (Compass) -- Police disrupted a Christian marriage ceremony
in the Eritrean town of Senafe on Sunday, July 25, arresting 30
guests and members of the wedding party and jailing them at the
local police station.
Charging in and demanding a halt to the wedding, local police
officials ordered everyone who was not a “Pente” to leave the place
immediately. A derisive abbreviation for Pentecostals, “Pente” is
used as a generic label for members of Eritrea’s outlawed
Many of the guests left immediately, but the 30 evangelical
Christians who remained were hauled off to a police station in
Senafe, some 85 miles southeast of Asmara.
The jailed Protestants were from local Kale Hiwot and Full Gospel
churches, as well as from various revival movements within the
Orthodox Church in Senafe.
They included the bride’s father, 80-year-old Woldegabriel
Gebremichel, and his whole family, all members of the Kale Hiwot
church. A Kale Hiwot evangelist identified by his first name Michel
and another elderly man in his 80s, Teame Kibrom, were among the
Commanders responsible for the arrest refused requests from
relatives trying to visit or inquire about the detainees until
yesterday, when all but two of the prisoners were released. The 28
evangelicals were set free after they signed a document promising
not to participate in any evangelical Christian wedding in the
Police continue to hold in prison custody the Kale Hiwot
evangelist Michel and church elder Kibrom, declaring the two
responsible for a wedding that “violated Eritrean cultural
traditions” and defied the government ban on evangelical church
Meanwhile, National Security Agency officials have not yet
responded to petitions to release on bail three prominent Protestant
pastors jailed since late May in Asmara police stations. Imprisoned
without charges, Rev. Haile Naizgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeske of the
Full Gospel Church and Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema
Evangelical Church have been refused all contact with their
More than 400 evangelical Christians are currently jailed by the
Eritrean government, which closed down the places of worship of 12
Protestant denominations in May 2002.
Many of those caught worshipping and praying in their homes or
while completing their obligatory military service have been beaten,
tortured and incarcerated for months in metal shipping containers,
trying to force them to sign a promise to recant their faith and
return to the dominant Orthodox Church.
Only the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Muslim faiths are
recognized as “official” religions by the Eritrean government.