Eritrea: Two music shops shut down, singer imprisoned

19 January 2006

In December 2005, Eritrean police raided two music shops in Asmara, jailed all people present, and shut down the stores, according to Christian sources. Popular Evangelical Christian singer Helen Berhane has been jailed without trial since May 2004

The Rema music shop in the capital of Asmara was the city’s main source of Christian music tapes and books for Protestant evangelicals. It was operated by members of the Philadelphia Church. On December 22, the establishment was raided and then sealed in the roundup, with all 15 people present at the time taken to prison.
In another part of town, the Galaxy Music Shop was closed down and sealed by security police – “only because they have Christian owners,” a source said to the Christian news agency Compass Direct.

The news agency, along with Amnesty International, reports that the popular Evangelical Christian singer Helen Berhane has been jailed alone in a metal shipping container in Mai-Serwa, a military camp just north of Asmara, without trial since last May for refusing to sign a promise to stop participating in local Protestant activities.
“You will receive no visitors and you will rot here until you sign this paper,” a military commander is reported to have said to the 30-year-old singer who is a member of the banned Rema church. The paper contained promises of release if she abandoned her faith and religious singing.

In Eritrea, all Christian worship and denominations are banned other than the officially recognized Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran church denominations.
Since May 2002 the Eritrean government has denied or indefinitely prolonged church registration applications. It has forbidden members from worshiping privately in their homes. In November 2004, the government also began arresting members of Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches, as well as those in a renewal movement in the officially recognized Eritrean Orthodox church.

In the weeks before and after Christmas, approximately 40 pastors and clergymen from five banned Protestant churches were arrested. According to, approximately 1,750 Eritrean Christians are currently believed to be under arrest for their faith – in Eritrean police stations, military training camps and prisons. In 2005, according to one source, Eritrean security forces have jailed 240 Christians.

Anmesty International:
‘Helen Berhane – Eritrea’

Christianity Today – 18 July 2005:

‘Dumped into Drums – Eritrea ramps up brutal crackdown on Christians’

Compass Direct – 4 January 2006:

‘Government Rounds Up Leaders from Five Churches’

Compass Direct – 5 January 2006:

‘Eritrea: Sixty More Evangelical Christians Jailed’
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