attacks against Protestant Christians have been confirmed this past
week in Eritrea, where 15 church members were hospitalized from
severe beatings on Thursday and another 11 detained all day Friday
by security police.
In Kushte, a small town six miles from the capital Asmara, a
Bible study group of 11 men and four women meeting in a private home
was forcibly interrupted on April 17. About 10 individuals, four of
them reportedly Orthodox Church priests, pushed their way into the
room where the group was gathered and began beating them with
sticks. Some stones were also hurled at them, members of the group
The 15 Christians, all members of a renewal group within the
Orthodox Church in Kushte, were injured so severely that they were
admitted to HahazeHospitalfor medication and treatment. Most were
bleeding from their injuries, and one had a serious eye wound.
“Several of them are very badly hurt,” a source who had visited
the injured Christians said. Although one of the wounded believers
was discharged from the hospital this morning, the others remain
under medical care.
In a separate incident the following day, 11 members of the
Mesert Christos Church in Asmarawere detained for a day by security
police while meeting at their church building.
The detained Protestants were kept under guard at the church
compound for the remainder of the day on April 18 by officers from
the city’s Police Station No. 6. They were all released that
evening, after a strict warning from the police that they should not
try to meet again.
During February and March, Eritrean security police arrested,
jailed and threatened 170 other Protestant Christians, all members
of Pentecostal and charismatic churches that the Asmaragovernment
ordered closed last May.
Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom for all
citizens, Eritreahas refused to grant government registration to any
“new religions.” Only four groups with longstanding official status
are recognized: Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Catholics and
Eritrea’s independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches, which
now have some 20,000 adherents, have for the most part emerged out
of a growing renewal movement begun five years ago within the
At least 74 Eritrean soldiers who have refused to deny their
Pentecostal beliefs and return to the Orthodox Church have been
jailed in the Assab military prison for the past 13 months.
Since May 2001, the Eritrean government has jailed many of its
political opponents, including 11 members of Parliament, 18
journalists and even two local staff of the U.S. Embassy. All are
being held incommunicado without charges.