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More Eritrean Protestants Attacked
by Compass Direct

Two new 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 confirmed.

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 Evangelical Lutherans.

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 Orthodox Church.

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.

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