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19 May 2016

Eritrea needs our prayers

Eritrea needs our prayers

The country of Eritrea has come back into the headlines lately due to the continual horrific persecution of Christians and other minorities.

The country's leader President Isaias Afewerki who came to power back in 1994, has the country under his control in a dictatorship. No other political parties are allowed to be formed, and therefore, the country has been dubbed the 'North Korea of Africa'. He is said to see Christians as 'agents of the west'.

When we last wrote about this country in 2013, Eritrea was tenth on the Open Doors world watch list. It has now risen to number three. Open Doors explains more of the country's troubled history- "In 2002 the Eritrean government outlawed the freedom of worship for many believers. Outside of Islam, and the denominations of Orthodoxy, Evangelical Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, believers were prohibited from meeting. Churches were driven underground and still face varying degrees of restrictions and attacks - many are secretly monitored, and have been forcibly closed or destroyed. "

They also report that a number of prominent Christian leaders were arrested in 2004 and there is no hope of them returning. They are being held in deplorable conditions and not much is known about their condition.

Alliance member Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports "Between 2,000 and 3,000 Christians are thought to be detained indefinitely at any given time. Most are from Protestant denominations.  Although some were initially released after pledging to renounce their faith, none have been formally charged or tried and all are held pending similar denials of faith. Barring a renunciation of faith, prison terms are harsh and lengthy. "

There are many stories of Christian prisoners and their brave fight in refusing to renounce their Christian faith. One such story comes from Release International about a lady called Twen who has been imprisoned for over 10 years for her Christian faith. She has had opportunities to escape the harsh and brutal conditions she is being kept in, but believes she is there for a purpose; to love and serve the other prisoners there.

Another lady Elsa tells the story of her and her sister being kept in captivity. They were asked to renounce their faith and promised release, which they refused to do. Her sister was eventually beaten to death.

The Guardian reports – "The UNHCR estimates that 5,000 people leave Eritrea every month and Eritreans account for the largest group of people applying for asylum in the UK, with 3,729 applications in 2015, a 48% increase over 2014. Eritrea also had the highest number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children last year at 694."

Today, Thursday, 19 May, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) will join Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Release Eritrea, the Evangelical Alliance, Church in Chains and the British Orthodox Church to protest the continuing repression in Eritrea.

CSW says: "Join us on 19 May, the 14th anniversary of the start of severe restrictions on churches, to let the world know we haven't forgotten about Eritrea." 

Prayer points:

·  Please pray for the Christians being held in captivity in Eritrea. That they would know God's peace and comfort and continue to have courage for the gospel.

· That justice will come to that country, that the oppressive regime will be overthrown.

- Please also pray for the thousands of refugees that have fled to other countries, that they would be granted safe asylum and be able to build new lives.



  Image credit David Stanley (under CC license)