Church Leaders Condemn Conditions in Eritrea

Sunday, June 22, 2014

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

ASMARA, ERITREA (Worthy News)-- Four senior church leaders in Eritrea have published an open letter criticizing the African state as "truly shameful and unacceptable," according to Barnabas Aid.

The 38-page letter was published late last month by Bishops Mengsteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Tomas Osman of Barentu, Kidane Yeabio of Keren and Feqremariam Hagos of Segeneiti. The bishops described Eritrea as "desolate" after many of its citizens have either fled the country, were imprisoned by it under inhumane conditions or have been conscripted into its army.

Compulsory military service for all men until the age of 40 encourages about 3,000 Eritreans to leave their country each month. Some escapees drown in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe while those seeking asylum in Egypt are often met with arrest and imprisonment. Others are captured by human traffickers as they cross the Sinai into Israel; they are then subjected to violent abuse while their captors demand heavy ransoms from their families.

Publishing the bishops' letter was courageous in a country that doesn't tolerate any dissent and is one of the world's worst persecutors of Christians: more than 1,000 are thought to be imprisoned in Eritrea's extensive detention system where some church leaders have been held for decades.

Christian prisoners have been incarcerated in metal shipping containers under high temperatures, forbidden to pray aloud, sing, or even have a Bible; some were tortured to recant their faith and have died after they were denied medical care.