World Watch Monitor, September 10, 2020
The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, possibly because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the BBC reports. The prisoners are from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara.
In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. Sunni Islam is also officially recognised. The Eritrean government has not responded to BBC requests for confirmation or denial. Previously, it’s dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.
In June 2019, the government seized all Catholic-run health clinics in the country and arrested five Orthodox priests.
In August 2019, Eritrea’s Orthodox patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he had been under house arrest since 2007, when he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs.
The US says “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world”. Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than 15 years.