20 Years is Too Long for Eritrean Pastors, Other Christians in Prison: The Voice of the Martyrs

The VOM encouraged Christians to pray for the release of Haile and Kiflu. Then 13 Eritrean Christians were released from prison.

BARTLESVILLE, OK — Twenty years ago, on May 23, 2004, two men were arrested for the “crime” of being a pastor. Twenty years later, those two men are still in prison.

Pastor Haile Nayzgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel were arrested for their leadership in the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea after the government outlawed Christian churches.

Nayzgi and Gebremeskel never stood trial and never received a sentence. They simply disappeared into one of the world’s worst prison systems. They have been held incommunicado for most of their imprisonment, denied access to their families, lawyers, and medical care.

“The continued imprisonment of these two pastors is a gross offense to human rights and human decency,” said Todd Nettleton, VOM Vice President. “Any claim the Eritrean government makes about protecting religious freedom is a ridiculous sham.”

These two pastors are among more than 350 Eritrean Christians currently in prison, including 80 arrested this year.

Last year, The Voice of the Martyrs encouraged Christians to pray for the release of Haile and Kiflu’s on their 7,000th day in prison. VOM provided information to help Christians email or fax the Eritrean embassy.

In response, more than 15,000 people committed to pray. Then, six days later, 13 Eritrean Christians were released from prison.

Nettleton also encouraged U.S. leaders to “use every tool at their disposal to urge the Eritrean government to end Eritrea’s persecution of Christians.”

Recently, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom urged “the Biden administration to bring greater attention to religious freedom violations in Eritrea.”

“I am thankful so many are praying for and speaking out on behalf of imprisoned Eritrean Christians,” said Nettleton. “Twenty years in prison for being a pastor is far too long!”

Eritrea is a small, East African country with a population of about 5 million people. The population of Eritrea is nearly evenly divided between Sunni Muslims and Orthodox Christians. Only about 3 percent are evangelical Christians.

According to VOM’s Global Prayer Guide, Eritrea is classified as a “restricted nation.”

For more information, and how to contact Eritrean government leaders on behalf of imprisoned Christians, visit VOM.org/20Years.


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