Many Christians are aware of the extreme persecution that Christians face in countries like North Korea, Sudan, and Iran. However, we also have brothers and sisters in Christ who face extreme persecution in places that we know very little, or nothing, about. Eritrea is one of those lesser-known places, perhaps in part because it doesn’t get much air time in the media.
With a total population of over 5 million, it is estimated that there are over 2.4 million Christians in Eritrea. Despite this relatively large percentage of Christians, Eritrea is, to put it mildly, a dangerous place to profess Christ. The following information about Eritrea is taken from the website of Open Doors, a ministry that continues to serve the church by shining a spotlight on persecuted Christians and identifying ways that the church can support followers of Christ around the world.
Horrific Prisons and Human Rights Atrocities
Since 1993, President Afwerki has overseen an authoritarian brutal regime that rests on massive human rights violations. During the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, government security forces conducted many house-to-house raids and imprisoned hundreds of Christians in inhumane conditions, including small shipping containers in scorching heat.
In 2018, Eritrea embraced an end to hostility with both Ethiopia and Somalia. How that agreement will play out for the situation of Christians remains to be seen. This extreme pressure and state-sanctioned violence are forcing some Christians to flee Eritrea—often called “Africa’s North Korea”—and seek asylum.
How Christians are Suffering
Christians are being forced to join the armed forces, and Protestants, in particular, face serious problems with accessing community resources, especially social services provided by the state. Individuals from non-traditional church groups, such as evangelicals, face the harshest forms of Christian persecution. Both converts from a Muslim background and cross-denominational converts from an Orthodox background encounter harsh mistreatment from their families and communities.
Thousands of Christians have been arrested and imprisoned over the years, some of whom have been detained for well over a decade.
Eritrea is the home of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, and its Christian history is defined by the Orthodox Church. Therefore, other denominations—in particular, Pentecostal churches—are not regarded as legitimate. This exclusion leads to persecution on many fronts for non-traditional believers.
Pray for Eritrea
- Thousands of Christians have been imprisoned in Eritrea over the last decade, some of whom still remain in prison after more than 10 years. Pray for endurance for brothers and sisters detained in horrific conditions, and ask God to give them perseverance in their faith.
- Pray for President Afwerki, that God would work in his heart and reveal the truth of the gospel.
- Tragically, the Orthodox Church in Eritrea sometimes acts as an agent of persecution against other Christians. Pray for cooperation among the Christians of Eritrea, that they would be one.
- In 2018, Eritrea embraced an end of hostility with both Ethiopia and Somalia. Thank the Lord for this amazing development and that the opening of the country to the international community to lead to a great improvement in the situation of Christians.
–For more on how to pray for and serve persecuted Christians around the world, go to Open Doors.