Eritrea releases Christian prisoners but is accused of attacking churches

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

(Worthy News) -
Eritrea has released a further 21 Christian prisoners, but Eritrean forces are accused of attacking churches in neighboring Ethiopia, Christian Today reported Tuesday. Despite these accusations, rights advocates believe the Eritrean release of Christian prisoners may constitute an effort to seek favor with Ethiopia’s Protestant prime minister: Eritrea has freed a total of 171 Christian prisoners since August last year.

According to a report by human rights group Release International (RI), the newly freed prisoners are all young mothers who were arrested during raids on underground churches conducted by Eritrean authorities in 2017, Christian Today said. Many of the women’s husbands were conscripts who had to leave their wives and children.

While the release of prisoners is a welcomed move, RI says Eritrea must be held to account for attacks on churches in the Tigray region by Eritrean forces. Eritrea is supporting Ethiopia in a deadly armed conflict with Tigray separatists - a bloody war in which atrocities against Christians and other civilians have been widely reported.

"Despite the prisoner releases in Eritrea, these horrific church attacks suggest it's far too soon to suggest a change of heart towards Christianity," Release International CEO Paul Robinson said in a statement. "The attacks on churches in Tigray are appalling, and Eritrea continues to hold many senior pastors who have been detained indefinitely – some for up to 17 years. Until all are set free and the killing of Christians stops it's too soon to talk of lasting change.”

There remain some 130 Christian prisoners in Eritrea and an unknown number of army conscripts who were imprisoned for their faith, Christian Today reports. Release International also said there are 150 Christians imprisoned by the Eritrean army.