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    More than 150 Christians in Eritrea have been arrested and detained in an underground prison because of their faith.

    The government of Eritrea started its crackdown on Christianity on June 23 when security officials arrested 70 Christians, including 35 women and 10 children, in the city of Keren. On August 18, officials took 80 Christians from Godayef to Ashufera prison, 15 miles from the city, reports Eternity News.

    The government is obsessed with having control over everything and everyone. —Father Mussie Zerai

    A local source revealed that the underground prison is located far from the main road. A person has to walk about 30 minutes to reach it. The underground tunnel is unsanitary and detainees are treated harshly. “Inmates are forced to dig additional tunnels when officers need extra space for more prisoners,” the source said.

    In addition to the arrests of Christians, some believers were taken to court to renounce their faith. On August 16, a judge told six government employees from Keren to deny Christ. They said they would “not negotiate their faith” and would “continue following Jesus.”

    Eritrean Christians pointed out that their own government is the main perpetrator of the ongoing attacks against Christian communities, reports Crux.

    At an event hosted by the British embassy to the Vatican, a priest from Eritrea asked the panel, “You’ve all been talking about persecution by terrorists, but in my country the Church is under attack by the government itself. What do you do in a case like that?”

    Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s government tolerates religion as long as it is seen as socially useful, but persecutes members if seen as a threat.

    Aside from the arrests of Christians, Eritrean government officials have shut down 21 church-run hospitals and clinics in the country.

    “The government is obsessed with having control over everything and everyone,” said Father Mussie Zerai, who coordinates pastoral work for Eritrea in Europe. “It sees the Catholic Church as a threat because we are part of an international network and ask questions.”