Eritrea locks arrested Christians in storage container prisons with 120°F heat

The government of Eritrea has arrested almost 100 Christians in a massive crackdown on unapproved churches and reportedly keeps them locked inside storage container prisons with temperatures reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

(REUTERS / Radu Sigheti)Three men walk towards the Nda Mariam Orthodox Church in Asmara, Eritrea May 11, 2008.

According to Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA, Eritrea's environment makes it appear that its people enjoy religious freedom as Christians under certain denominations are allowed to meet in public. However, for those who do not belong to the four denominations approved by the government, meeting together even in their homes is prohibited, Mission Network News details.

The Eritrean government's approved religious denominations are only Sunni Islam, Catholic Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Evangelical Lutheran. Despite the approval, the government still wants to have tight control over these groups.

Eritrea ranks 10th among the worst persecutors of Christians in the world, with authorities going as far as disrupting wedding receptions and arresting believers in door-to-door interrogations. Fuentes said the arrested Christians suffer in prison from the lack of ventilation, food, and proper hygiene.

"They're rounded up and put into storage container prisons many times. Eritrea is on the eastern side of the continent of Africa where it gets extremely hot. These people are sometimes locked in storage containers with very little air ventilation and up to 120 degree heat," said Fuentes. "[They] often get sick from the lack of hygiene in these places, and often don't get the food they require to stay nourished. So it's a horrific place for Christians who don't fall into the approved denominations."

Last month, Christian Solidarity Worldwide expressed concern over the welfare of Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios, who has been under house arrest in an unknown location for 10 years for fighting the government's request to close a church and excommunicate its 3,000 members. Reports have surfaced about his deteriorating health possibly due to poisoning.

Despite the persecution they face, Christians in Eritrea are still willing to spread the Gospel of Jesus to other people. For this reason, Fuentes is asking the people to pray for the citizens of Eritrea to have more religious freedom and less human rights violations.