Tag Archives: Christian solidarity worldwide

160 Christians arrested during Eritrea’s fresh crackdown on Christianity

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marian-orthodox-cathedral-asmara-eritrea

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service

ASMARA, ERITREA – Human rights groups have reported that the number of Christians arrested in the Eastern African nation of Eritrea since the government began its most recent crackdown against Christians in May has reached at least 160.

Sources who spoke with the international religious persecution advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide have put the number of Christians detained in raids in the capital of Asmara and seven other towns at about 170, according to a press release shared with The Christian Post.

Meanwhile, Release International, an organization that monitors and reports on Christian persecution in numerous nations across the globe, reported on Wednesday that around 160 Christians have been arrested, according to Christian Post reporter Samuel Smith.

The Christian Post says that in May, it was reported that nearly 100 Christians were detained, including 49 evangelicals who were arrested at a wedding party on May 21.

The outlet says the authoritarian government’s recent crackdown on Christians comes 15 years after the government closed many non-sanctionedmap-of-eritrea churches and banned religious practices not affiliated with state-recognized denominations such as the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Christian churches and Sunni Islam.

“Worryingly, this latest phase has been described to Christian Solidarity Worldwide as ‘unprecedented in its intensity and rough treatment,'” CSW said.

CSW, which recently earned accreditation with the United Nations, notes that among the 160-plus Christians arrested are 33 women who are being held a Nakura, “a notoriously harsh prison island in the Dahlak Archipelago that was created by Italian colonialists in the late 19th Century to crush political dissent.”

Most of the 33 women being held at Nakura are reported to be young mothers who have left approximately 50 children without parents to care for them.

A local source told Release International that 12 children are actually in prison with their parents, with the youngest child believed to be about 2 months old.

“Unbelievably more than 30 children have been left without parents or guardians and the security police are monitoring them to make sure they do not get support from the Christian community,” the Release International report states.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement that the increase in Christian arrests is a “clear illustration that the persecution of unrecognized faith groups in Eritrea is continuing.”

“Moreover, the detention of these women, many of whom are young mothers, in a notoriously harsh facility simply on account of their religion or belief, is unwarranted, deplorable and in violation of Eritrea’s obligations under international law,” Thomas said.

According to Release International’s website, whole families are being arrested during this most recent crackdown on faith. The organization states that in the past, most arrested Christians were detained at Bible studies or Christian events. But now, “believers are being arrested at their homes.”

“Security officials accompanied by an Orthodox priest are turning up at homes and questioning people over their religious affiliation,” Release International explained. “All except Muslims, Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran are liable for arrest.”

Eritrea ranks as the 10th worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.

An Open Doors fact sheet states: “The government’s attempt to control all religious institutions was particularly evident in the deposing and replacing of the Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) [Abune Antonios] in 2007, and he has remained under house arrest ever since. The EOC itself persecutes those who leave the EOC and become Evangelical or Pentecostal believers.”

CSW’s Thomas praised the United Nations Human Rights Council for passing a resolution earlier this month that extended the mandate of the special rapporteur on Eritrea for one year.

“Obviously, there has been no improvement in Eritrea’s human rights situation, and CSW warmly welcomes the renewal of the special rapporteur’s mandate, which will ensure continued human rights monitoring and follow up of Eritrea’s implementation of recommendations from the special rapporteur’s reports and those of the COIE,” he said in a statement.

“It is time to prioritize accountability for human rights violations; thus we reiterate our call for the international community to facilitate justice for victims of atrocity crimes, and to maintain pressure on the Eritrean regime until every prisoner of conscience is freed without precondition.”

 

Photos: Featured image: Sunset Over Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, Asmara, Eritrea (Eric Lafforgue Photography); Eritrean Christians worship in prison (courtesy of Barnabas Fund); Map of Eritrea

Acid attack on Catholic priest part of ‘a series of assaults on churches and church leaders’ in Zanzibar

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Father Anselm Mwang'amba displays his terrible injuries.

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) – A Christian human rights organization is deeply troubled by an acid attack on an elderly CatholicFather Anselm Mwang'amba displays his terrible injuries. priest in Zanzibar on Sept. 13.

Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a news release that the incident, the latest in a series of assaults on churches and church leaders in the semi-autonomous archipelago, highlights a worrying deterioration in freedom of religion or belief in Tanzania.

Father Anselm Mwang’amba was attacked as he left an Internet cafe in the historic Stone Town area of the Zanzibar capital, and is currently hospitalized with severe burns to the face, neck and hands.

CSW said according to a local report, while inside the cafe Father Mwang’amba received a call from an unknown number and was doused with acid as he exited to answer his telephone.

The assault on Father Mwang’amba is the fourth major attack on a Christian leader in Zanzibar since December 2012, when a Catholic priest was wounded by unknown gunmen.

Local Christians report receiving threats via text message or in leaflets naming church leaders who have been targeted for assassination, and in some instances referring to a prospective date.

In February, the murder of a Protestant pastor was followed a week later by the killing of a Catholic priest.

In addition, CSW reported, at least 20 churches have been looted and either burnt or demolished, allegedly by supporters of the separatist religious movement Uamsho (Awakening). Perpetrators of religious violence are never brought to trial even when identified or caught in the act, and police investigations are generally extended indefinitely.

In a comment to CSW on the attack on Father Mwang’amba a local Christian speaking on condition of anonymity said, “We are asking the international community to intervene in this issue. Christians do not have any protection. In this environment we live in so much fear of what will happen to whom tomorrow.”

CSW has also received reports of increasing discrimination on the Tanzanian mainland and an inadequate official response to religion-related violence.

The family of a Pentecostal pastor beheaded in March in violence that erupted in Geita after the Muslim community objected to the opening of a Christian-owned butchery are still awaiting justice.

Christians complain of the inequitable application of public order regulations designed to maintain religious harmony, including discrimination in the granting of permits for open-air meetings and new media outlets.

In May, people died and more than 60 were injured when the inauguration service for a new Catholic Cathedral in Arusha was bombed in what the Tanzanian president described as a “terrorist attack.”

Daniel Sinclair, Communications Director at CSW said in the news release, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Father Mwang’amba, who we wish a speedy recovery. These threats and attacks targeting church leaders and church buildings are in violation of the Tanzanian constitution, which provides for freedom of religion or belief. If left unchecked, religious violence will ultimately undermine national cohesion. CSW calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to take decisive action to tackle rising extremism and prevent impunity from taking hold in any part of the country.”

He added, “It is vital that the Government of Zanzibar effectively addresses attacks on the local Christian community, offers protection to all who are under threat, adequately compensates churches that have been looted or demolished, and ensures that inciters and perpetrators of religion-related violence are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.