Leader: President Isaias Afwerki
How many Christians?: 5.2 million (2.6 million Christians)
World Watch List Rank: 6
“”I will serve the Lord until I die; 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, who was imprisoned for more than 10 years
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.
Shiden – whose name has been changed for security reasons – was in his early 20s when he 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.
Shiden’s story reflects dangers facing many Christians in Eritrea, and the devastating impact imprisonment can have on believers, even after being released.
In this inspiring video Eyal shares how the courage of Eritrean believers is helping them to stand firm in the face of persecution, imprisonment and even death.
If you were to wake up tomorrow, with only the things you thanked God for today, what would you have?
Open Doors works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide discipleship training, economic empowerment projects and persecution survival training.
Heavenly Father, we pray for all our brothers and sisters currently imprisoned for their faith. May they and their families find strength today in Your peace ‘which transcends all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7). Thank You that some Christians have been released in recent months; intervene to bring about the release of more. Provide fellowship for all believers, and protect gatherings from the watchful eyes of the state. Work in the heart of President Afwerki, to bring him to repentance and to show him the valuable role Christians play in Eritrean society. Amen.
Click the Eritrea tag below for a list of the latest articles and news on the country…
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.