The persecution of Christians in Eritrea—a northeast African country on the Red Sea bordering Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti—has taken a new, more sinister angle with the arrests and imprisonment of children who are simply praying in public.
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs said:
"The Evangelical Church has been outlawed in Eritrea by the government. Any kind of public church meetings are illegal, other than those in the approved denominations by the government.
So anytime Christians gather together, they face arrest, they face persecution and imprisonment. Many times those imprisonments are in horrible conditions, even being held in shipping containers which have no plumbing. They have very limited air supply, they’re closed off, they’re [hot] in the summer, they’re very cold in the winter.
Since May of this year, nearly 200 Christians have been arrested. The interesting thing about this—they have shifted tactics… Instead of just raiding church services or Bible studies, now the government is going to the homes of Christians, and they’re arresting the whole family. Even children have been put under arrest if they’re part of a Christian family."
Even as bad as it was, this seems like a step further in the persecution of Christians—to arrest even children who are involved in Christian activities. VOM separately announced the incarceration of children last week with the following statement:
Sixteen Christian students were arrested earlier this month, the latest in a series of arrests since May 2017. The students, who were arrested after being discovered praying together, were held for more than two weeks before being released. Nearly 200 Christians have reportedly been arrested since May 2017.
“What makes this persecution different is that whole families are now being arrested,” a VOM contact said. “Whereas in the past most were picked up at Bible studies or Christian services, now believers are being arrested at their homes. [Because of the arrests], 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.”
VOM has urged prayers from the Church for those who are being persecuted, particularly the children. Nettleton said Eritrean Christians are continuing to worship and serve the Lord in spite of the persecution.