Eritrea - Religions



The four principal religions in Eritrea are Sunni Muslim (appr. 50%), Orthodox Christian (appr. 40%), Eastern Rite and Roman Catholic (appr. 5%), and Evangelical Protestants (appr. 2%). Other minority groups include Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baha'is, Buddhists, and Hindus. Geographically, Islam predominates in the eastern and western lowlands while Christianity is dominant in the highlands. Along ethnic lines, members of the Tigrinya group are primarily Orthodox Christian. Most of the Tigre, Nara, Afar, Saho, Beja, Rashaida, and Blen are Muslim. Though the constitution provides for freedom of religion, the government has recently placed a number of restrictions on "Pente" groups, or all religious organizations other than the four principal religions. In 2001, the government began closing all Pente facilities and by 2002 had issued a degree that all religious groups must be officially registered in order to continue practices. This has effectively allowed for the closing of all facilities not belonging to the four principal groups. There is a standing law prohibiting political or other gatherings in private homes of more than five individuals, but it is unclear as to whether or not this law has been enforced against the members of the Pente groups.

Jehovah's Witnesses are particularly subject to discrimination both socially and from the government since their refusal to participate in national service is considered unpatriotic. Besides receiving prison sentences for evading national service (up to 3 years), a number of Jehovah's Witnesses have been denied or have had trouble obtaining passports, exit visas, identification cards, and trading licenses. Some have been forced from government subsidized housing.

Members of other religious groups are generally tolerant of one another.

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