Ministry leader fears the regime is planning to purge 'illegal' believers from Eritrea over Christmas
Release International fears Christians in Eritrea may face a clampdown this Christmas after receiving reports that the regime is planning to purge ‘illegal’ believers from the country.
Christians belonging to non-traditional church groups have faced intense persecution in Eritrea in recent years but the harassment may only get worse in the next few months.
Selam Kidane, director of Release Eritrea, estimates that at least 3,000 Christians have been imprisoned by authorities in Eritrea for refusing to obey orders by the military junta to renounce their faith.
“Eritrea has declared there will be a purge of Christians by Christmas,” she told the Release conference in London.
Authorities take a lenient attitude towards Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox Christians but have shut down other churches, arrested their leaders, and tortured and imprisoned some of their members in shipping containers.
Release said the harassment was levelled against those Christians who refuse to bow down to the final authority of the state.
Kidane said torture was “rife” in Eritrea. She described one cruel torture method used against Christians called the ‘helicopter’, in which the legs and arms are bound behind the prisoner before they are hung from the ceiling. Other prisoners are given the ‘Jesus Christ’, in which they are bound with their arms outstretched.
“What is taking place in Eritrea is now similar to what is happening in North Korea,” she said. “Eritreans have become the new boat people of our time.”
She warned, however, that Eritrean refugees were not receiving a warm welcome from countries like Italy and Britain, but were instead being treated harshly.
She appealed to Britons to show compassion to Eritrean refugees in their midst.
“Having fled persecution and having crossed the Sahara, they’re not safe in the UK either. Some have committed suicide because of the harshness of the treatment they have received here,” she said.
The Release conference also heard from a North Korean defector named only as Lydia to protect her real identity. She told of the brutality she faced from authorities in North Korea when she was recaptured.
“They kept torturing me. They tied my hands behind me and punched my face. The teeth I have now are dentures. They are not mine,” she said.
“They hung me on a pulley about five metres from the ground and threatened to drop and kill me. If they had found out that I went to church in China it would have meant death.”
Source: Christian Today