Pastor Kidane Weldou disappeared and is presumably detained by Eritrean security forces. His vehicle was found abandoned in downtown Asmara. He is a senior pastor of the Full Gospel Church and has been a leader in the church for many years. Weldou is married and has four daughters. For many days his family has been unable to learn his whereabouts. Other Full Gospel pastors still being held include Haile Nayzgi. Pastor Weldou is also a member of the executive committee of Gideons International in Eritrea.
About 2,000 Christians are being held in prisons and military camps in Eritrea. A few were released after signing a pledge to stop attending religious services. The Eritrean government began forcibly closing evangelical Protestant churches in 2002. They have not allowed any of the independent Protestant churches to register and reopen since, even though 11 have applied for this official registration. Along with Islam, there are only three Christian churches authorized to worship by the government. These include Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches. However, Orthodox Christians have also been arrested.
On February 19, 2005, a group of Sunday school teachers and students were arrested and detained by police after a raid on the Medhane Alem Orthodox Church in Asmara. They were later released. According to Compass Direct, the pastors of the banned Protestant churches were reportedly ordered not to inform anyone outside Eritrea of their problems. However, these pastors rejected this advice and reported what was happening to the outside world. Some of those arrested are held in metal shipping containers.
Statistics from Eritrea
According to Compass Direct newly compiled statistics smuggled out of Eritrea indicate that at least 1,918 Eritrean citizens are imprisoned and subjected to torture and forced labor because of their religious beliefs; 95 percent of these known religious prisoners of conscience are Christians.