How many Christians are there in Eritrea?
There are 2.6 million Christians in Eritrea, which is almost half of the country's population (47%).
How are Christians persecuted in Eritrea?
Believers in Eritrea continue to suffer extreme persecution, making it still one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus.
The government recognises only three denominations: Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran. Those not part of these groups are at risk of severe persecution at the hands of the state. This includes intrusive surveillance, raids on gatherings, and arrests.
The conditions facing Christians in prison can be inhumane. Some pastors have been incarcerated for over a decade and have faced solitary confinement. There are believed to be more than 1,000 Christians imprisoned in Eritrea, with none formally charged. While some are released, many of these are moved to military service – which is no freedom at all – or house arrest.
Since most underground church leadership positions are held by men, any arrests among them cause a leadership vacuum, as well as financial distress to families where they are the breadwinner. Detained Christian women are acutely vulnerable to gender-based violence whilst held.
Meanwhile, converts from Islam and the Eritrean Orthodox Church face harsh mistreatment from their families and communities.
“I want to be a hero of the faith, too, and one day in the future claim the crown of righteousness that is laid up for me.” SHIDEN, AN ERITREAN BELIEVER IMPRISONED FOR OVER TEN YEARS
What’s life like for Christians in Eritrea?
Shiden* was in his early 20s when he was imprisoned for more than a decade in appalling conditions, simply for worshipping Jesus. He was arrested with 40 other people when he was caught during a secret worship service.
“When he was released, he was too skinny,” shares his mother. “He stuttered when he spoke.” He struggled with depression. Whilst he is doing better, he continues to need prayer as he grapples with loneliness as well as grief over spending his early adult years in prison rather than pursuing opportunities to build and enjoy his life.
"I will serve the Lord until I die," Shiden shares. "I want to serve the Lord for the rest of my days. I want to be a hero of the faith, too, and one day in the future claim the crown of righteousness that is laid up for me, which the Lord will award to me on that day.”
Shiden’s story reflects the dangers facing many Christians in Eritrea, and the devastating impact imprisonment can have on believers, even after being released.
*Name changed for security reasons
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 works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide discipleship training, economic empowerment projects and persecution survival training.