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Eritrea

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These Eritrean Christian refugees are cared for at a sanctuary in Israel supported by Barnabas

Incarcerated in metal shipping containers with extreme temperature changes; forbidden to pray aloud, sing, preach or have a Bible; tortured to make them recant their faith. These are some of the extremely harsh conditions that thousands of Christians in Eritrea are experiencing in prison. Some have died under torture or because they were denied medical care. The country is ranked among the world’s worst persecutors of Christians.

The repressive Marxist government of Eritrea appears to have intensified its campaign against Christians in unregistered churches. At least 150 were seized in October 2013 at a single prayer meeting in Maitemenai near the capital, Asmara.

Most denominations are illegal in Eritrea. The government regards Christians as a threat to national unity because they give their ultimate allegiance to God. The state-controlled media characterises evangelicals as imperialistic groups that promote religious intolerance amongst the people.

In 2002 the authorities required all non-registered religious groups to register or cease their activities, but since then it has refused to grant any new registrations. The buildings of unregistered groups have been closed down, and their members are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention without due process of law. Christians conscripted to serve as soldiers in the army can be imprisoned for attending prayer meetings and receive severe punishments even for possessing a Bible.

Only three Christian denominations are officially recognised, and they have to submit reports of their activities to the authorities every three months. The national leader of the largest group was appointed by the government, and his predecessor has been under house arrest since 2006.

Many Christians have fled to nearby countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan and Egypt to escape persecution. Every month hundreds make the arduous journey across the Sinai desert to seek safety and freedom in Israel. Some die along the way; others are shot dead at the border; still others are taken hostage for ransom by nomads; and those who are caught may be sent back to Eritrea. Those who claim asylum in Egypt may be thrown into prison, while others end up in the hands of traffickers. They can suffer rape, harassment, torture, beatings or even slavery.

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    • The landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s general election in May sparked alarm for Christians and other minorities in the country. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. It has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. The BJP has introduced “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states, which are used to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism. Prior to the general election, the BJP pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end proselytising if elected. Pray that the BJP will rule justly and that the rights and freedoms of all Indian citizens will be upheld. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 21 hours ago

    • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka facing attacks from Buddhist extremists, who have forced the closure of numerous churches. In an apparently positive move, the government has created a Religious Disputes Unit to address conflicts between different groups and combat attempts to create religious discord. But many Christians and Muslims believe that Buddhist extremists are allowed to operate with impunity and that the new unit will not solve the problems faced by non-Buddhists. A cap on the building of places of worship has also been announced, and this seems to serve the Buddhist lobby, which is opposed to expanding Christian activity. Pray for protection for Christian congregations and that their ministry and mission will not be further impeded. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Sep 2014 00:00

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

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