Conditions are so harsh for Christians in Eritrea that the country is often described as Africa’s North Korea. The Marxist government exercises a tight grip on the population, which is roughly half Christian and half Muslim. It legally permits only three Christian denominations – Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran – as well as Sunni Islam.
Having official recognition does not, however, guarantee freedom from intimidation and harassment. In February 2022, Abune Antonios, deposed as patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church for denouncing government interference in the Church, died after 16 years of house arrest. He was 94 and, like thousands of other detainees, had never been charged.
Christians from prohibited denominations are subjected to arbitrary arrest and lengthy terms of imprisonment often without charge or trial. They are frequently beaten, starved of food and water, held in degrading and overcrowded conditions, tortured and forced into hard labour. Pastors and theological students in detention are singled out for extra punishment or extended sentences.
Only the Lord knows how many Christians are being held in Eritrea, but persecution continues. In March 2022 the authorities rounded up 29 evangelical Christians (12 men and 17 women) as they prayed in a private house in the capital Asmara and took them to the Mai Srwa maximum security jail. Tens of thousands of Eritrean Christians have fled persecution, many seeking refuge in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Israel.
The Eritrean military has been accused of carrying out atrocities against the ethnic Tigrayan population, which is almost entirely Christian, in neighbouring Ethiopia. Troops are alleged to have taken part in killings of civilians, rape and looting.
Pray for the protection and patient endurance of all Christians in Eritrea. Ask that their loving and compassionate spirit will convict even those in authority to turn from their repressive ways to the Living God.
Pray for a permanent cessation of hostilities so that Ethiopia can rebuild, displaced people can return to their homes and aid can be received. Ask the Lord to send much-needed rain. Pray especially for Christians, that their faith will not fail despite their catastrophic circumstances.