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News / Thoughts

Eritrea: People are disappearing

April 27, 2015

Last week 800 migrants drowned when their ship capsized off the Italian coast. Around 150 of them were from Eritrea.

Many Eritrean refugees are not so-called ‘economic migrants’ but people who are desperate for freedom. “In Eritrea you’re even afraid to talk to your family,” Sofia said. “The person next to me [in a cafe] could be a spy, and they are looking at what you are doing. People disappear every day.”

She tells a chilling story of how a friend made the innocent mistake of striking up a conversation with a man in a cafe who later turned out to be from the Libyan embassy. “They were just chatting. And they said she was a spy passing information to him. We don’t know what happened to her. She is in jail till now. One day they told us she was in hospital with high blood pressure but we were so afraid that we didn’t go because we feared they might arrest us too.”

Eritreans and Syrians are the most common nationalities found among those who risk the sea crossing to Europe from North Africa.

Eritrea ranks 9 on the World Watch List 2015. The ‘People’s Front for Democracy and Justice’ exerts absolute control over its citizens, including their religious life. All religious groups must be registered. Christians are considered a threat to the state; their houses have been attacked, and they have been tortured, beaten and imprisoned in horrific conditions. Some are detained in metal shipping containers in scorching temperatures.

One Christian woman who was arrested for following Jesus, was put in a small cell with 55 other women.

“We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep,” she told Open Doors. “We were forced to work long hours without rest. My immediate commander was especially cruel.

“But in a dream one night I saw myself fighting with and defeating a very strong man. In the dream I was surprised by my strength and wondered how I had managed to defeat him.”

Recently, the The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) agreed to establish a Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. Open Doors submitted a report outlining human rights violations and describing the harrowing imprisonment conditions Christians face, including physical torture, hard labour, emotional torture, insufficient food, insufficient hygiene and insufficient medical care.

An Open Doors staff member told us, “It is our prayer that the Commission of Inquiry will bring greater awareness of the plight of Eritreans in general and Christians in particular, and help to bring change for our brothers and sisters in the country. We want to see Christians granted the freedom to worship our Lord Jesus openly.”

Source: Open Doors; Guardian

Please pray…

  • For the influence of the United Nations enquiry – that it will bring real change
  • For Eritrean secret believers, facing arrest, imprisonment and death
  • For more media coverage of the abuses and lack of freedom in Eritrea.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.