Crackdown on Christians in Eritrea

ASMARA – The tiny country of Eritrea has been called “The North Korea of Africa.” The county ranks at Number 7 on the Open Doors World Watch list of states where the persecution of Christians is the most severe.

The county Eritrea ranks at Number 7 on the Open Doors World Watch list of states where the persecution of Christians is the most severe.

No national elections have been held since the country gained its independence in 1993. Even though nearly half of the 5.2 million residents claim to be Christians, they live under an umbrella of constant dictatorial paranoia. This is especially true for Pentecostals and other Evangelicals, whose presence was outlawed in 2002.

That law gave Eritrean authorities “full control of all the church-run organizations and initiatives in the country, such as private schools, medical clinics, and orphanages.”

Pentecostals and Evangelicals are regarded as enemies of the state. Those caught gathering are considered to be unregistered churches and are subject to arrest and torture in prisons where they are detained in squalid conditions and “routinely deprived of water, food, proper sanitation, and medicines.”

The prison system is infamous for its brutality. It is common for the authorities to confine prisoners in metal shipping containers exposed to the intense desert heat.

When Eritrea began closing churches after the anti-Christian law, an unknown number of believers thought to be in the thousands were taken into custody. Many remain confined because disavowing their faith is a condition for their release.

Even those Christians who have managed to remain out of prison find themselves unable to access standard community services or aid from the state ordinarily available to all citizens.

Recently, the crackdown on Christians seems to be on the rise. Officials have been raiding homes where Pentecostals are known to gather for prayer.

In the days leading up to the nation’s May 24 Independence Day, police arrested more than 140 Christians, including 14 children. Although the group was meeting quietly for prayer, police claimed that they were trying to prevent protests leading up to the national holiday.

During the first week of June, another 30 Christians were arrested in various locations and detained simply because of their faith.

While Christian faith-based organizations around the globe work tirelessly to provide food, clean water, sanitation, and healthcare for those in need, officials in Eritrea are depriving those who love Jesus of the very things they and other believers would sacrifice to give to them.


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