The Problem

100,000 million Christians face persecution simply for following Jesus 
The Problem


Leader: President Isaias Afewerki
Population: 5.2 million (2.5 million Christians)
Main Religion: Islam/Christianity
Government: One-party state
Source of Persecution: Dictatorial paranoia/Islamic extremism
World Watch List Rank: 7

“We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep. We were forced to work long hours without rest. My immediate commander was especially cruel.”
Senet was put in prison, in a small cell with over 50 other women, for refusing to put the state before her faith in Jesus

The basics

The government only recognises three Christians denominations, including the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC) – and it is the government that appoints the Patriarch of the EOC. Hundreds of Christians who are members of unregistered churches are in prison – some have been held captive for over a decade; some are kept in shipping containers in scorching temperatures. Christians are considered ‘agents of the West’ and a threat to the state. Eritrean Muslims are ‘Muslim first’, and leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of their community. Many Christians would rather risk the deadly emigration routes via Sudan or Libya than stay in Eritrea. Arrests and forced disappearances are common, with more than 300 Christians arrested last year. Many believers are held in miserable conditions, some in shipping containers in scorching temperatures. Thousands have been imprisoned, some for over a decade.

The facts

  • Christians are considered enemies of the state.
  • Followers of Jesus have faced beatings, imprisonment, harassment and torture.
  • Christians have been locked in metal shipping containers battling with horrific heat in the day and freezing temperatures at night.
  • Islamic extremism is on the rise, and radical groups seem well connected with country leaders.
  • Christians are looked at suspiciously, and the government encourages people to spy on followers of Jesus.
  • Up to 20,000 people, including Christians, are being held without trial or contact with the outside world for opposing the government.

Where is it?

Pray this

Lord God,
You aren’t just the God of Christians. You are God of all people and all places, whether they know You or not. Be known in Eritrea. Let Your will be done. Be with Christians there. I pray they would know Your love, so much so that you are known through the way they live. Give strength and perseverance to those in prison for You. Bring the church together to change their nation.

Other things to pray for…

  • For comfort for imprisoned Christians – many have now been in captivity for 11 years. Ask that God will use them as witnesses to their captors.
  • For provision and protection for believers from Muslim backgrounds who are rejected by their communities and targeted by extremists.
  • For the thousands of refugees who risk the dangerous journey to Europe – especially women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers.
  • Ask God to change the hearts of President Afewerki and his government and reveal Himself to them


More in-depth info…

The good news: How we’re helping…

Since the late 1990s, Open Doors has strengthened believers in Eritrea through strategic partnerships with the local church. Open Doors encourages Christians in the region through:

  • Raising awareness and prayer
  • Encouraging positive engagement on behalf of the church
  • Practical assistance to persecuted Christians.

Latest news and articles on Eritrea…

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.