Senior Church Leader in Eritrea Dies in Prison

ERITREA — Senior church leader was arrested without charge and jailed without ever going to trial. And now he has died behind bars in prison in Eritrea, the country some describe as the North Korea of Africa. Andrew Boyd of Release International reports on the life and death of one of the leading figures in the church in Eritrea.

A senior church leader in Eritrea has died in prison at the age of 83. Reverend Ghirmay Araya was never charged with any crime. He suffered from diabetes and related illnesses.

Rev Ghirmay was one of the founding fathers of the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, which was banned along with many others in 2002.

Thousands of Eritreans have been imprisoned for their faith since then. Some have died from torture and medical neglect. Some have been detained for 20 years.

Rev Ghirmay was arrested in 2021. One of his sons, Samuel, has been imprisoned for his faith for the past seven years.

Although they were held in the same prison, father and son had no opportunity to meet.

Sources say Samuel, is being kept in a shipping container, a practice long condemned by Release International, which serves the persecuted Church worldwide.

Prisoners are locked in steel containers in the desert, where they bake by day and freeze by night. The metal boxes are insanitary and prisoners are subject to frequent beatings.

There are thought to be some 400 Christian prisoners of faith in Eritrea. The actual figure is unknown, because so many have been imprisoned without trial or without charge.

Release International has campaigned for many years for Eritrea to grant full freedom of worship for all its citizens. It will continue to press for the release of every Christian locked up in its jails.

Release International partner, Dr Berhane Asmelash, has first-hand experience of an Eritrean prison. He’s just written his autobiography, Brother, I have come to arrest you.

Dr Berhane was imprisoned with convicts on death row and led some to Christ. He was subject to a mock execution. Several times he could have escaped, but felt God wanted him there to serve the other prisoners.

He was eventually able to come to Britain where he’s campaigned tirelessly for the persecuted church in Eritrea.

Release International CEO Paul Robinson describes his book as ‘a wake-up call to the Church in the free world, to truly value our freedom and to use it effectively for the gospel.’

Read more news on Christian Ministry and Christian Persecution on Missions Box.


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