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Lenten Focus: the Church in Eritrea

For more on my Lenten Focus, see my Ash Wednesday post. A quick summary is that I am spending Lent fasting and praying for the Persecuted Church and I invite you to join me.

Photo: International Christian Concern, one of the groups that speaks for the Persecuted Church in Eritrea and around the world.


Eritrea is a small country that gained it’s independence from Ethiopia in the 90s. While it is consistently among the top ranked countries in Open Doors Word Watch List, the plight of Eritrean Christians isn’t well known.

From Voice of the Martyrs:

Eritrea, which gained its independence in 1993, has been devastated by conflict and drought. It is seen as one of the most repressive states in the world, using torture against its own citizens. Tens of thousands of citizens have been imprisoned, and though a 2011 U.N. report estimated that nearly 70 percent of Eritreans cannot meet their food needs, the government insists that the country is self-sufficient and refuses international food aid. The proportion of Eritreans who are in the army rather than in the workforce also hinders economic growth. The constitution and elections have been indefinitely suspended. Eritrea has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the USCIRF since 2004.

The Eritrean government has banned all Christian groups except the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, the country’s largest Christian group; the Roman Catholic Church; and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea, a Lutheran-affiliated denomination. Even recognized groups face severe restrictions and a lot of government interference. As in previous years, security forces continue to disrupt private worship, conduct mass arrests at prayer meetings and other gatherings such as weddings, and detain those arrested for indefinite periods without charge. As many Christians have fled the country, mass arrests have decreased. Currently over 1,000 Christians are imprisoned in Eritrea because of their faith, some for over 10 years, and none of those have ever received a court hearing or been formally charged. In November 2013, VOM sources reported that a group of 185 Christians who had gathered to pray near Asmara over the worsening conditions in the country were arrested; some women and children were released after signing an agreement stating that they would stop meeting with other believers. Prisoners are tortured and subjected to extremely poor living conditions, often locked in metal shipping containers or underground bunkers. Several who have refused to renounce their beliefs have died in custody.

Prayer Points from Open Doors:

  • For the hundreds of Eritrean Christians who have been imprisoned for their faith
  • That the government would soften its stance on evangelical Christians and give them the freedom to worship Jesus without restrictions
  • That the rise of Islamic extremism will be stifled in 2015

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