How many Christians are there in Eritrea?
Christians make up almost half the population in Eritrea – 2.5 million from a population of 5.3 million. Muslims make up approximately the same percentage.
Why are Christians persecuted in Eritrea?
Christians who aren’t members of state-approved churches are considered agents of the West and a threat to the state. That means some denominations are recognised by the government, including the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) – but these are tightly controlled by the government. The EOC sees the growing number of evangelicals as a threat, and Christians face severe consequences if they criticise President Isayas Afewerki or his party.
“We are receiving Jesus Christ for eternity, at the same time we prepare for suffering also.” Eyal, Church Leader
What’s life like for Christians in Eritrea?
Anybody who is believed to have criticised the government is likely to be severely punished – and following an unapproved Christian denomination is considered anti-government. This means that hundreds of Christians are arrested and imprisoned, including 141 in May 2019 and 30 the following month. Some prisoners are held in shipping containers in scorching temperatures.
Eyal, who has now been released, talks about being severely beaten with rods, kept in chains and treated without any human dignity. “I cannot believe I survived that,” he says. “Really, it was only by the grace of the Lord.” Eyal still sees a bright future for the church in Eritrea. He knows that Eritreans are often choosing suffering when they choose Jesus, but as 1 Peter 5:10 says, “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
In recent months, the Eritrean government has also seized control of church-run schools and hospitals and shut them down. This is believed to be in retaliation for bishops making a public call for government reforms.
How can I help Christians in Eritrea?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Eritrea. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors partners with the local church in Eritrea to provide practical assistance to persecuted Christians, support Bible and discipleship training, and raise awareness and prayer.
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Eritrea?
Eritrea has risen one place in the World Watch List, largely because there has been an increase in violence. The greatest threat in the country, however, remains the impact of government policy.