ADDIS ABABA – The North African nations of Eritrea and Ethiopia have formally agreed to end the longest-running war on the continent. Christians in Ethiopia are praying that the agreement will present new opportunities to spread the Gospel.
“With this new peace agreement, borders will be reopened and trade reinstated between the two countries. The key now is seeing whether the peace agreement will stand as each government holds to their side of the deal.”
The countries re-established telephone communication lines almost immediately after the handshakes and the signing of the documents. Ethiopian Christians are hoping that the cessation of the border conflicts which have cost the lives of tens of thousands over the past twenty years will also mean that they will have the freedom to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ to their neighbors.
This magnitude of this opportunity is far greater than outsiders, most of whom are largely ignorant of the history and status of the two countries, might imagine. This is especially true since Eritrea is ranked #6 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of countries where the persecution of Christians is the greatest. “Conversion to Christianity is seen as a complete betrayal of community, family, and the Islamic faith. [Even] the Eritrean Orthodox Church . . . persecutes believers who leave the denomination.”
Reuters reported the agreements as “the first of its kind between leaders of the two Horn of Africa neighbors since their war 1998-2000 war in which around 80,000 people died. Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia amicably in 1993 but the two countries swiftly became bitter enemies.”
In 1993, Eritrea declared its independence from Ethiopia, but no defined borders were established between the two countries. A two-year-long border war began in 1998, culminating in a peace agreement in Algiers in December 2000. However, the borders were still in dispute and remain undefined to this day. BBC News reports that the demarcation will be one of the top priorities moving forward.
As the border reopens, Christians in Ethiopia supported by Global Disciples are optimistic that religious freedom in Eritrea will soon follow. Ethiopia’s prime minister spoke of the reconciliation saying, “Love always win. Killing others is a defeat.”
A national missionary supported by Global Disciples said, “What they speak of is really forgiveness for what happened in the past, love, and peace. That is the language the prime minister of Ethiopia is speaking and the same that the president of Eritrea is echoing.”
For many Ethiopian Christians, sharing the Gospel in Eritrea may simply take a short walk to the next village along the ‘borderless border.’
“Keep praying…for the Ethiopian Church to use this opportunity to take the Gospel to Eritrea. Keep praying for this to open wide doors for the Ethiopians to go and reach the unreached people group in that country as well as for God to soften the heart of the government of Eritrea. We have to pray for them.”
- The Independent, Eritrea, Ethiopia make peace
- BBC News, Ethiopia offers Eritrea chance to end Africa’s longest war
- Middle East Eye, Who stands to gain and lose from peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea?
- Reuters, Foes Ethiopia, Eritrea pledge to open embassies as leaders embrace
- Global Disciples, Go and make disciples of all nations
- Mission Network News, Ethiopia and Eritrea celebrate new peace; what will it mean for the Gospel?
- Open Doors World Watch List, Eritrea