Leader: President Isaias Afewerki
Population: 5.4 million (2.5 million Christian - mostly Orthodox)
Main Religion: Islam/Christianity (Orthodox)
Government: One-party state
World Watch Rank: 11
All evangelical churches were closed following the government's ban on all religious groups other than Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran or Islamic in 2002. Anyone discovered to be an evangelical is tortured and forced to revert to the registered denominations. If they don't, they are held in military camps without trial. Around 1500 are believed to be imprisoned; at least five died in 2011. Others were released so they wouldn't die in custody. In 2011 there was a renewed crackdown on house churches; at least 23 believers were imprisoned.
- Many Christians fled the country in 2002, so the majority of believers are recent converts. Pray for their spiritual growth
- Ask God to physically and spiritually sustain His children who are imprisoned in inhumane conditions
- For worldwide awareness of the plight of Eritrean Christians.
Open Doors in Action
- Open Doors raises prayer for the Eritrean church and provides practical support to believers in Eritrea through every possible avenue we can find.
"I am testing and experiencing the love and care of our Lord every day... The moment I entered my cell, one of the prisoners called me and said, 'Pastor, come over here. Everyone in this cell are (unsaved). You are very much needed here.' So, on the same day I was put in prison, I carried on my spiritual work". - Eritrean pastor in prison
About the Church
- The government outlawed all religious activities outside of the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Islamic faiths in 2002. Around half of Eritrea's population is from an ethnic Muslim background.
- Small evangelical churches have been closed and cannot register.
- Church leaders estimate that there are around 1,500 believers in prisons specifically for their faith. Christians are arrested and released in waves. Those not suspected of being involved with leadership in the church are often released after signing some kind of agreement.
- Since 2002, at least 16 Christians have died while imprisoned in an Eritrean prison, six of whom were women. Some died from sicknesses due to a lack of medical attention and also from torture.
- Church leaders in general are not allowed to leave the country and they feel isolated.
- A large number of Christians are involved in obligatory military service and must exercise their faith under severe restrictions. Large numbers of soldiers are being converted.
- In general it is risky for the church to receive literature and other items.
- Religious prisoners and their families/dependants are another burden on the already financially weak churches.