At least 31 Christians have been released from prison in Eritrea. The government may be releasing prisoners as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Eritrea outlawed all religions outside of Sunni Islam, The Eritrean Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and the Lutheran Church in 2002. Those who worship in unregistered churches are considered enemies of the state.
Greg Musselman of Voice of the Martyrs Canada said Christianity grew quickly in Eritrea after it gained its independence from Ethiopia.
"Evangelical churches especially were growing. Many people were leaving the state church and becoming evangelicals, and that caused some difficulty for the state church," Musselman said. "The government began to basically shut down evangelical churches. Once the churches were closed down, believers continued to meet, and then they were arrested."
Although only a small fraction of prisoners have been released, Musselman said he is hopeful more will be freed. In July, 22 Methodist prisoners released.