Almost half of Eritreans are Christians – 2.6 million from a population of 5.4 million – but Christians who aren’t from state-approved denominations face extreme persecution.
Christians from non-traditional denominations face the harshest persecution in Eritrea, both from the government and from the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC). The EOC, the Catholic church and the Lutheran church are the only Christian denominations recognised by the government, and the EOC is particularly tightly controlled by those in power.
Government security forces monitor phone calls, scrutinise activity and conduct countless raids which target Christians, seize Christian materials and damage house churches. Christians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial. Many Christians are held in inhumane prisons because of their faith, and their loved ones often do not know where they are or even if they are still alive.
There had been hope that a peace agreement with Ethiopia would improve human rights in Eritrea, but there has been little indication of this – and unrest at the Ethiopia/Eritrea border in autumn 2020 has threatened any stability there is. In June 2020, the UN reported that there was no meaningful progress to address human rights violations in Eritrea.
Unlike many countries, women in Eritrea are subjected to obligatory military service. Christian women who are conscripts are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, while detained or imprisoned female Christians often experience violence from prison guards. In rural areas of Eritrea, abduction and forced marriage are still prevalent. If a Muslim abducts a Christian woman, she will be forcibly converted.
“In prison, one of my main purposes as a Christian was to evangelise. We saw many conversions. The gospel can’t be chained!”Musse
Musse (not his real name) was arrested and sent to prison for working as a pastor at an ‘unregistered church’. He spent six terrible years there – and, even before that, had been a victim of the Eritrean government’s surveillance for years. Amazingly, Musse managed to live for Jesus even in prison.
“In prison, one of my main purposes as a Christian was to evangelise,” he says. “Of course, it is forbidden to do it openly, but we did it at night when everybody was asleep. We even had Bible verses we could study in secret. Sometimes, there were very problematic people who used to inform on us. They would tell the guards, ‘Musse is preaching, teaching and doing other Christian things’. There were people like that, yes. But many are passing through different frustrations and depression. Those people loved what we taught and shared. Some of them even tried to cover for us. We saw many conversions. The gospel can’t be chained!”
Musse remains under close and constant surveillance, forced to report to his local police station regularly to show that he has not fled the country. Every time he goes there, he risks re-arrest. “Please continue praying for us,” asks his wife, Ruth (name changed). “We need prayers so that we live without worry and keep calm.”
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Eritrea. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide practical assistance to persecuted Christians, support Bible and discipleship training, and raise awareness and prayer.
Father God, please protect Your children in Eritrea. Convict the hearts of those who persecute them, particularly those who profess to follow Jesus and yet still persecute His children. We ask that You would free Eritrean Christians from prison, as you did with the apostle Paul and Silas. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.