For practicing their Christian faith, four teenage girls were arrested and locked up in jail in Ethiopia earlier this month, with one of the girls even subjected to brutal beating.
According to World Watch Monitor (WWM), the four girls—Eden, 15, Gifti and Mihiret, both 14, and Deborah, 18—were arrested for distributing a book about Christianity in Babile, around 550 km east of the capital Addis Ababa.
Christians decided to distribute the book to the people in the Ethiopian town following a cross-cultural evangelism training.
However, local authorities deemed the act illegal and ordered the arrest of those caught distributing the book.
The four girls who were arrested were eventually released on bail after paying 3,000 Birr (around $135) to the court in the nearby city of Harar. However, Deborah was re-arrested just hours after her release for still unknown reasons.
The Christian book that triggered the girls' arrest and beating was titled "Let's speak the truth in love: Answers to questions by Ahmed Deedat," the late South African Islamic scholar and former head of the Islamic Propagation Center International.
Written in Amharic, Ethiopia's main language, the book answers questions about the Christian faith.
Muslim leaders in the area claimed that the book insulted Islam, sparking an outrage that led to mobs attacking churches and threatening Christian leaders.
The teenagers were subsequently arrested by local police. One of the girls, Eden, suffered a beating on her first night in prison.
A WWM's source visited the girls in prison and spoke to Eden and Deborah.
Eden said their faith remains unshaken. "This [suffering] is an honour for us. We should expect persecution. We are not afraid. We are singing and praying here in prison," she said.
Deborah added, "It is an honour to be jailed for God's Kingdom."
According to the 2016 World Watch List compiled by Open Doors, Ethiopia is ranked 18th of 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
"Ethiopia has many tribes...[who are] not necessarily favorable to Christianity, and in some places like Afar and the Somali regions, tribes are interconnected with Islam," The Open Doors report states. "The ruling party in the country has blocked all the channels for freedom of expression and assembly, and has also tried to control all religious institutions in a bid to curb dissent."