World Watch List: 06
Leader: President Isaias Afwerki
Population: 5.3 million
Christian: 2.4 million
Main Religion: Christianity
Government: Authoritarian Presidential Regime
Source of Persecution: Dictatorial Paranoia
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Eritrea through:
- Practical assistance
- Encouraging positive engagement on behalf of the church
- Bible & discipleship training
- Spiritual support to mitigate the effects of persecution
”God helped us. We saw the Hand of the Lord. God was with us. We prayed, fasted and even witnessed to others. Many people accepted Jesus Christ.”
– Eyal (pseudonym), an Eritrean Christian about his time in prison
Source of persecution: Dictatorial paranoia / Denominational protectionism
Government remains oppressive
The Eritrean government recognises only three Christians denominations, including the Eritrean Orthodox Church – and it is the government that appoints the Patriarch of the EOC. Christians who aren’t members of state-approved churches are considered agents of the West and a threat to the state.
Any church groups regardless of their denomination would face a serious consequence should they speak against the brutal nature of the government. The Eritrean Orthodox Church also sees the growing evangelicals in the country as a threat.
Despite the momentous peace deal signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2018, nothing has changed for Christians or any who have been oppressed by the regime.
More than 800 Christians arrested
Hundreds of Christians who are members of unregistered churches are in prison – some have been held captive for over a decade. Many are forced to work long hours in commercial flower fields, and some are held in shipping containers in scorching temperatures. They are also chained and tortured to force them to renounce Jesus.
In order to search out all members of evangelical churches, officials conduct house-to-house searches. There are also networks of citizens who spy on their neighbours; phones and emails may also be monitored by the government. They look for underground prayer or Bible study groups, private possession of Christian materials, or those who access Christian radio or TV shows. These are all illegal. Over 800 Christians were arrested in 2019.
- Christians in Eritrea ask us to join them in prayer for their government. Not to pray for a replacement, but to pray that they will encounter Christ and repent.
- Believers who have been released from prison continue to suffer trauma from their time in captive. Pray that they experience God’s peace and presence with them, and be healed completely.
- For the discipling of new believers as it is difficult to do so in such oppressive environment.