By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ASMARA (Worthy News) - Some 29 evangelical Christians have been detained in Eritrea after security forces raided a home prayer meeting in Asmara, the capital, said Christians familiar with the situation.
Advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) told Worthy News that authorities took 17 women and 12 men to the notorious Mai Serwa prison camp on the outskirts of the capital city.
It was unknown Thursday what precipitated the mid-March attack, but worship outside of government-recognized churches is illegal in the troubled Eastern African nation. “Most gatherings take place in private homes. However, each residential area is known to have government spies who report "unusual activities" to the authorities,” VOMC added.
The believers have not been formally charged, and it is unknown if they will be, Christians said. Over the years, Christians in Eritrea were held indefinitely without charges, sometimes for weeks and even years.
VOMC expressed concern about the expected ill-treatment that the detained evangelical Christians will endure in the Mai Serwa prison facility. “Compounding the unjust treatment of Eritrean citizens – many of them reputed as good standing and well-educated Christian leaders, conditions at the notorious Mai Serwa prison are noted to be overcrowded, unsanitary, and subjected to the country's harsh climate.”
Amnesty International and other rights groups also expressed concerns about the use of metal shipping containers – where beds and mattresses are not allowed. Detainees are reportedly forced to take turns sleeping on bare floors.
VOMC said it had urged its supporters to pray for the “recently arrested Christians, as well as the many other believers who are currently being held in Eritrean prisons because of their unwavering allegiance to Christ.”
The advocacy group said it prays that “these suffering followers of Jesus have opportunities to encourage one another to remain strong in their faith. And share the blessed eternal hope they have in Him with other prisoners.” Additionally, “pray for their soon release so they can be reunited with their families,” VOMC added.