Denmark grants asylum to Christian singer fleeing oppression and torture


An Eritrean Christian gospel singer who faced torture and unjust imprisonment in her homeland has been granted asylum in Denmark, BBC News reports.

Helen Berhane was imprisoned in a metal shipping container and beaten in an effort to make her recant her faith.  She was forced into torturous physical positions, and now uses a wheelchair because of the injuries caused to her legs and feet.

A member of an unregistered Rema Church, Ms. Berhane had just released a cassette of gospel music before she was arrested in the Eritrean capital in May of 2004. 

The Eritrean government recognizes four religions:  the Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Churches and Islam.  90% of Eritreans belong to these groups.  Ms. Berhane was among the estimated two thousand detained members of the country’s various illegal evangelical church groups.

In testimony collected by Release Eritrea, a religious freedom group, other prisoners have claimed they are routinely subjected to extreme heat and cold and denied water and sanitation.

Ms. Berhane was released in 2006 after an international campaign for her cause.  She found sanctuary in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where her daughter Eva later joined her.  She first applied to asylum in the United Kingdom, but after seven months she applied to Denmark.  After one month Denmark determined she was a genuine asylum seeker.

Dr Berhane Asmelash, Director of Release Eritrea, said "We are relieved that Helen and Eva are finally safe and would like to thank everyone who has supported them."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, added his gratitude and concern: "We are thrilled that Helen has now finally found refuge for herself and her daughter after so many years of suffering," he said.  "We cannot forget, however, that 2000 other Christians still languish in Eritrean detention centers simply for holding on to their faith."

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