A persecution watchdog group is bringing attention to two specific human rights violations involving prisons: one in Iran, the other in Eritrea.
An Iranian prison in Tehran with a notorious reputation for violent human rights abuses, especially against Christians, has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury. International Christian Concern is welcoming the sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department on Evin Prison. ICC's Claire Evans describes Evin Prison as "a very dark place," saying the sanctions put Iran on notice.
"It's a statement saying we're not going to accept you violating human rights, we're not going to accept you treating people like they're less than human, that your citizens have dignity as human beings – and you need to treat them as such," she tells OneNewsNow.
The sanctions are positive steps in getting the attention of the regime, says Evans. "There have been prisoners who in the past have come out of Evin saying that when the West turns their attention to the plight of those who are in prison, Iran does listen sometimes or does, at least, take a step back and give them some breathing space."
Evans says it's important to raise awareness of what is taking place in Evin Prison and pray for inmates there. She says it isn't a coincidence that so many Christians have been sent to that prison.
Target clearly on Christians
Meanwhile, the release of a pastor from an African prison is helping to call attention to the human rights violations taking place there.
According to persecution watchdog organizations, hundreds of Christians have been arrested and held for their faith in Eritrea, a relatively new country located in the Horn of Africa that gained independence in the early 1990s. It's has been learned that a pastor held in prison there for more than a decade was recently released – but it's speculated that the reason was primarily due to the pastor's deteriorating health caused by his poor treatment in prison.
Nathan Johnson with International Christian Concern says Eritrea is "horrible" for Christians. The communist regime allows only four religions: Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Sunni Islam – but to join, says Johnson, one has to make four pledges.
"First, is that you will never be born again, which is specifically, obviously, targeting Christians because that's a Christian term," he begins. "Secondly, your loyalty is to the government, not to God, church, family – any of those other things. Your first loyalty is to the government."
He continues: "Third, is that you'll never carry a Bible outside the church or home, which goes straight to again Christianity and spreading the gospel – evangelism. And then the last one is that you will turn in any missionaries or evangelists that you do find in the country."
And when people do that, Johnson explains, they get three months' wages. "It's a very poor country, so this is a straight attack at Christians," he adds.
Johnson says "the world must come together to end the abuse of human rights in Eritrea."