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Persecution Watch: Praying for Believers in Eritrea

(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Thursday, April 28, 2022 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church hosted by Persecution Watch.

ERITREA: Population: 5.5 million, Christians 2.6 million

Despite almost half the population identifying as Christian, believers in Eritrea continue to suffer extreme persecution, making it still one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus.

The government recognizes only three denominations—Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran. Those not part of these groups are at risk of severe persecution at the hands of the state. Gatherings are raided and believers arrested. The conditions facing Christians in prison can be inhumane. Some pastors have been incarcerated for over a decade and have faced solitary confinement. There are possibly more than 1,000 Christians imprisoned in Eritrea, with none formally charged. While some are released, many of these are moved to military service—which is no freedom at all—or house arrest. The ongoing detention of Christians shows that the government has no intention of relaxing its repressive policies.

Christians not recognized by the state are especially vulnerable to the everyday surveillance imposed by the state, with phone calls monitored, bandwidth kept slow, and a network of citizens tasked with spying on their neighbors. This intrusive level of monitoring has led to Eritrea holding the infamous title of “Africa’s North Korea” (The Economist, Aug. 14, 2018).
Meanwhile, converts from Islam and the Eritrean Orthodox Church face harsh mistreatment from their families and communities.

What has changed this year? Very little has changed, except for a slight increase in pressure on churches. The country remains sixth on the World Watch List, making it still one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution? Whereas persecution by the state affects Christians across Eritrea, other forms of opposition are more localized. The western and eastern parts of the country are majority Muslim, while the central areas are more Christian Orthodox. Christians from Muslim or Orthodox backgrounds living in those regions are more susceptible to persecution.      

  • Pray that imprisoned Christians and their families will be sustained by God’s grace and presence.
  • Pray for a change of heart for the longtime dictator President Isaias Afwerki.
  • Ask God for wisdom, discernment, and boldness for believers as they seek to meet together despite the threat of surveillance.
  • Pray that the Lord will protect the congregations of believers that are watched by the police.
  • Pray for the Christian youth who are required to serve in the military, even if they don’t want to.
  • Pray for the leaders of the Orthodox church, that they will embrace all followers of Jesus as brothers and sisters and not as competitors.
  • Pray for the Lord to protect the new believers, converting from Islam and joining evangelical churches.
  • Pray that Christians from Islamic and Orthodox backgrounds will be encouraged and empowered to stand firm in their faith and would worship in unity with together.
  • Pray for the protection of believers who want to come together and have worship as well as fellowship
  • Pray for the secret Christians in Yemen who live under constant threat because of their faith. Ask God to give them courage, wisdom, and boldness, that they would know how to best live out the gospel.
  • Pray for believers to sense God’s presence and know that Christians are praying for them.
  • Pray that believers experience God’s comfort under persecution and forgive their persecutors.
  • Pray to the Lord to guide and protect NGO workers in their covert support to Christians.
  • Pray to the Lord to break the powers of darkness and that all Christian believers can worship openly without any fear.

Again, we want to lift up these persecuted witnesses to the Lord: 

  • Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018. Pray for her release.
  • Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
  • Pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
  • Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped from Iran and praying to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
  • For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence.

Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

From any location on your phone

USA Time Zone:

9:00 PM Eastern

8:00 PM Central

7:00 PM Mountain

6:00 PM Pacific

Call in number: (667) 770-1476 (Note: We have a new call-in phone number)

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

If you are experiencing any difficulties joining the call, please let us know.

What is Persecution Watch?

Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.

Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.

“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone.

We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you are new to the call and cannot find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.

Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team

NOTE: Please fill out the form in the sign up link below to be included in our distribution list to receive urgent prayer requests, prayer points, notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

Persecution Watch: Praying for Christians in Eritrea

(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Thursday December 30, 2021 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church hosted by Persecution Watch.

Eritrea: Population 5.4million, Christians 2.5 million (3% Evangelical)

Located on the Red Sea, Eritrea is governed by a totalitarian regime that seeks to control every aspect of life. Some have compared Eritrea to the “hermit kingdom” of North Korea, as it is one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world. In 2002, the government outlawed every form of religion except Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and the Lutheran Church. All other religious groups are illegal, and the government maintains tight control of approved churches, including their messages. Years of communism, required military service and economic depression have caused many Eritreans, including evangelical believers, to flee the country. But during the recent war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Eritrean army was allowed to cross the border and destroy two Eritrean refugee camps, taking many refugees, including Christians, back to Eritrea. Over the past year, the government has released some Christian prisoners while arresting several new groups. While the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended a two-decade war, the benefits have been one-sided. Ethiopians may travel freely between the two countries, but travel for Eritreans is restricted by their government. Despite these hardships, the underground church in Eritrea continues to grow due to the faithfulness of church leaders inside and outside the country.

Known as the “North Korea of Africa,” Eritrea is infamous for its intricate and inhumane prison system, often putting prisoners in shipping containers, creating insurmountable conditions, and leaving them in isolation. Prisons are part of an underground tunnel system that often prevents families from reaching and even contacting their loved ones. Conditions have even worsened due to the pandemic.

Evangelical churches must meet secretly. The government actively seeks to infiltrate these underground churches and imprison their leaders. About 400 believers are known to remain in prison, including several top leaders. Imprisoned Christians are not given a trial or allowed to see their families, many of whom do not know where their loved ones are imprisoned or even if they are still alive. Christians simply disappear and are assumed to be in government prisons. The conditions inside these “prisons” are some of the harshest in the world. Christian prisoners are provided meager rations and held in shipping containers in extreme desert conditions for years. When long-term prisoners are released, they are blacklisted by the government. They are unable to get jobs, watched constantly and their families lose opportunities. They still need extended physical and emotional help.

Bibles are available, but the government tracks each Bible sold. Christian literature is highly regulated, and most believers who want Bibles must smuggle them in. For this reason, many believers must access Scripture by digital means.

  • Pray for the government, those in authority and Eritrea’s long-time leader, Isaias Afwerki.
  • Pray for the availability of more Christian resources in the Tigrinya language.
  • Pray Eritrean Christians and church leaders would have wisdom and opportunities to engage their government on the topic of religious freedom.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up strong leaders for Eritrean churches.
  • Pray for the strength and perseverance of long-term prisoners and their families.
  • Pray for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of recently released prisoners of faith.
  • Pray for Eritrean believers in Tigray who have had to flee or have been taken by the army.
  • Pray for the financial, physical, and spiritual needs of Eritrean prisoners’ families.
  • Pray for radio ministries reaching out to Eritreans.
  • Pray that believers’ faith would grow, that their love would increase, and that their faith would be steadfast in persecution and affliction.
  • Pray for those suffering terrible conditions in prison, held because of their faith, and for the Christian women and children whose husbands and fathers are in prison. Pray the Lord would show His grace to these families and provide for their spiritual and physical needs.                                                                                   
  • Pray that opportunities will open up for believers to share the gospel with others safely.
  • Pray for good internet access so that Christians can download scripture and related material.
  • Pray that the Lord’s hand of protection is on His believers and that His church will grow in spite of the hostile culture against Christianity.

Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses to the Lord: 

  • Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018. Pray for her release.
  • Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
  • Pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
  • Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped from Iran and praying to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
  • For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence.

Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

From any location on your phone

USA Time Zone:

9:00 PM Eastern

8:00 PM Central

7:00 PM Mountain

6:00 PM Pacific

Call in number: (667) 770-1476 (Note: We have a new call-in phone number)

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes

If you are experiencing any difficulties joining the call, please let us know.

What is Persecution Watch?

Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.

Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.

“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone.

We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you are new to the call and cannot find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.

Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team

NOTE: Please fill out the form in the sign up link below to be included in our distribution list to receive urgent prayer requests, prayer points, notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

Photo: Animal Market in Eritrea

Eritrea: 150 Christians arrested on account of their faith

150 Christians were arrested because of their faith in Eritrea. The first 70 were arrested in Keren on June 23, 2019.

Almost 2 months later, on August 18, 80 more were arrested in Godayef, and taken to a nearby police station before disappearing.

In an underground tunnel

The 70 prisoners arrested in June are being held in prison in Ashufera. The term “prison” refers to a number of underground tunnels that the prisoners are forced to extend, by digging, whenever more people are brought in, according to the Italian online publication Tempi.

Those arrested are all members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, the last church to have been left open in the city of Keren. The 60 year old congregation had asked for official registration in 2002, though they never received any response from Eritrea’s government. After the arrest of 70 of its worshipers, the church’s school was also closed down.

“Renounce Christ”

On top of the 150 arrested for their faith, many more have been asked, before a judge, to renounce their faith, more specifically, to “renounce Christ.”

On August 16 2019, 6 Christian government employees were taken to court and asked to give up their faith. After replying that they were not willing, they were set free as they await a verdict.

Twenty-one Catholic-run hospitals have been closed down, the last on July , 2019. Each of them offered free healthcare to over 170 thousand people a yea. It took a month to confiscate and close down every single one of the clinics, most in rural areas.

The government

A law dating back to 1995 says that only the government can provide social assistance, and therefore run healthcare facilities.

But the government appears unable to do so as they continuously postpone their promised democratic reforms.

written by Francesca Merlo  source

UN Decries Lack of Reforms and Widespread Abuse in Eritrea

A U.N. investigator is condemning an Eritrean crackdown on fundamental freedoms and religious practice in a new report, as well as the country’s harsh, indefinite military service and widespread abuse.

Hopes that Eritrea, which has been accused of human-rights abuses, would institute reforms after it signed a historic peace agreement with Ethiopia in 2018 have not materialized.  If anything, a U.N. report on its human rights situation has found widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and torture. read more

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Praying for the Inhumane Suffering of Eritrean Christians (Nov. 21, 2019)

 

(Voice of the Persecuted) Before praying for Eritrea, we want to pray for: Leah Sharibu and Alice, made slaves for life by Boko Haram.

Eritrea:

Population: 5.2 million, Christians 2.5 million

Horrific prisons and human rights atrocities. Since 1993, President Afwerki has overseen an authoritarian brutal regime that rests on massive human rights violations. During the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, government security forces conducted many house-to-house raids and imprisoned hundreds of Christians in inhumane conditions, including small shipping containers in scorching heat. Protestants, in particular, face serious problems in accessing community resources, especially social services provided by the State.

06/07/2019 30 Christians were arrested on Monday, June 3, while praying at nondenominational churches in three different locations in Asmara, Eritrea. This news comes shortly after the arrest of 141 Christians in Asmara in early May. According to local reports, the arrested individuals will be freed only if they disavow their faith.

The current Eritrean government only recognizes four religious affiliations, including Sunni Islam, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, the Catholic Church, and Orthodox Christianity, even though the constitution proclaims religious freedom. Consequently, religious minorities outside of these four groups face consistent opposition from government bodies.

Eritrean police officers are known to carry out raids on private homes where devotees of unrecognized religions, especially Pentecostal Christians, meet for community prayer. In this week’s raid, Pentecostal Christians were targeted while they prayed in their community churches. The condition of the jails these Christians are sent is most troubling. Eritrea is known for imprisoning dissidents in metal shipping containers in the heat of its desert climate.

At least 10 prisons around the country are holding hundreds of prisoners who have been detained for anywhere from a few months to 20 years, according to Release Eritrea, a U.K. charity that highlights Christian persecution in the country. Among them is the former Patriarch of Eritrea Orthodox Church,

Abune Antonios, who is in his 80s and has been under house arrest and incommunicado since 2007. He was deposed after complaining about the government’s interference with the church.

Pray for endurance for brothers and sisters detained in horrific conditions and ask God to give them perseverance in their faith, some of whom still, remain in prison after more than 10 years.

Pray that the International community will focus, shine the light, on the inhuman prison conditions and that will lead to improve the life of prisoners.

Pray for President Afwerki, that God would work in his heart and reveal the truth of the gospel.

Pray for cooperation among the Christians of Eritrea, that they would be one. Tragically, the Orthodox Church in Eritrea sometimes acts as an agent of persecution against other Christians.

Pray to the Lord for Bibles and discipleship materials to be readily available.

Pray to the Lord that He opens the doors to evangelism, that believers can boldly share the Gospel.

Pray to the Lord that that the internet is easily accessible and minister to both believers and non-believers.

Pray that the evangelical churches will be recognized and become legitimate centers for Bible teaching and worship.

Pray for the growth of the church and that the powers of darkness will not prevail.

Blessings,

Andy, Prayer Team Moderator

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?

Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Meet you on the call!

Eritrea: Orthodox Patriarch Antonios expelled for ‘heresy’

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Patriarch Abune Antonios was removed by the Asmara government and placed under house arrest in 2007 after he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs. The event led to a schism in the EOC with a pro-government group supporting a new government-approved replacement who was not recognised by the Papacy in Egypt who installed the patriarch and his predecessors, as reported by ICN.

Following international pressure Antonios made a first public appearance in 2017 as he participated in a mass which rights called a “marketing exercise” by the government.

He remained under house arrest but in April filmed a video that was broadcast in which he reportedly talked about his circumstances and criticised the fact the Church was being led by a layman. The patriarch, who is suffering from health problems, allegedly also said his fellow clergy did not care for his wellbeing. He is currently staying in servant’s quarters of the house owned by the pro-government Bishop Lukas, who himself has ambitions to become the next patriarch, said ICN.

Apparently referring to the video, the pro-government bishops said in a letter explaining their decision to expel the church’s legitimate leader, it was ‘recent activities’ by Abune Antonios that had raised questions about the sincerity of his repentance and that they were concerned about the growing risk of heresy in the church. They did, however, say they would continue to provide the patriarch with food and a place to stay.

In May, a monitoring group for the UN said “thousands” of Christians are facing detention as “religious freedom continue[s] to be denied in Eritrea” and questioned why the UN was not monitoring the situation more closely.

Eritrea is 7th on Open Doors International’s 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

30 Pentecostal Christians Arrested for Praying in Eritrea

Eritrea’s Pentecostals have faced much persecution and detained for their faith. Recently 30 were arrested by the country’s security forces for praying. According to the BBC, Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea, said the Christians were arrested at three different locations around the capital city of Asmara.

The Eritrean government officially sanctioned and provided protocol status recognition to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and Sunni Islam. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process, including personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship. Although the Eritrean government stated that it would allow other groups to be recognized, it has refused to register applications for recognition pending since 2002, even though some of them meet the requirements. Basically, the government considers other religious groups illegal and claim they are instruments of foreign governments.

A few weeks ago, police arrested 141 Christians, including 23 men, 104 women, and 14 minors, from Asmara’s Mai Temenai area.

Eritrea’s population is approximately half Christian and half Muslim. Since 2004, U.S. State Department has recognized Eritrea as a “country of particular concern” for horrific violations of religious freedom.

Priest sends alarming report of ongoing suffering in Eritrea

“The regime does not relieve pressure: it is a state-prison” Photo: Agenzia Fides

The official end of the war with Ethiopia has not stopped the exodus and people still flee from Eritrea. Boys and girls run away from an oppressive regime and from a very poor society that does not offer job opportunities. Abba Mussie Zerai, a priest of the eparchy of Asmara, wrote an open letter in which he criticizes the ruling class of his Country, asking to keep the attention alive: “The regime in Asmara – he says in the letter sent to Agenzia Fides is one of the world’s toughest political regime, a dictatorship that suppressed all forms of liberty, annulled the 1997 constitution, suppressed the magistracy, militarized the entire population. A dictatorship that, in a word, has created a State-prison. The numerous, detailed reports published by various international institutions and organizations and by the most prestigious NGOs and humanitarian associations have denounced this situation for twenty years. Also the two final reports of the investigations conducted by the UN Commission on Human Rights, clearly states that the regime has elected terror, making its own people slaves. Not surprisingly, in the 2016 report, we come to the conclusion that there are well-founded elements to refer the main leaders of the Government to the International Criminal Court”.

In recent years many Eritreans have fled. A substantial part stopped in Ethiopia, which currently houses 175 thousand, and in Sudan, which has welcomed 110 thousand. But many are heading north. Once they arrive in Italy they move to Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

Many Eritreans die during the journey. The accident that symbolizes this tragedy is the shipwreck that took place on October 3, 2013, when more than 300 people died. “As Eritrean – observes Abba Mussie – I ask to bring the bodies of the victims of the massacre Lampedusa back to Eritrea and of all the other young refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean and are buried in Italy. It is time to overcome controversies, in the name of a human principle of great significance: to give families a place to pray for their loved ones”.

In this context, the regime does not loosen its grip on the population: dozens of political prisoners are still detained in prisons, international commissions can not enter prisons and any form of freedom, starting with politics and religion, is not guaranteed. “Even recently – continues Abba Mussie – opponents have been arrested, Catholic and Islamic schools have been closed, eight medical centers and Catholic hospitals have been barred, while the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Abune Antonios, stopped in 2004, is still under arrest after 14 years”. And, launching an appeal to the international community, the priest concludes: “One can pretend to close one’s eyes to reality in the name of geostrategic and economic interests. Or one can give voice and content with force to the values of freedom, democracy, justice, solidarity”. source: Fides

Eritrea ranked 6th on Open Doors 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to follow Jesus.

Eritrea: Rights groups call for renewal of UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate

(World Watch Monitor) Rights groups have called for the mandate of the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Eritrea to be renewed in June.

The human rights situation in the East African country has been monitored by the UN Human Rights Council since 2012, when it appointed Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth as the Special Rapporteur. In March this year she, however, acknowledged that during her tenure the human rights violations in the country have “continued unabated”.

Father Thomas Reese, of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, told a US human rights commission in April that Eritrea remained “one of the worst examples of state-sponsored repression of freedom of religion or belief in the world”.

“The State Department estimates that between 1,200 and 3,000 individuals are held on religious grounds,” he said. Among them are several Evangelical and Pentecostal pastors who have been detained for more than 10 years.

Evangelicals and Pentecostals in Eritrea have been at particular risk of detention since a 2002 law was passed prohibiting Churches other than the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and also Sunni Islam.

“The situation in the country is only getting worse”, Dr Berhane Asmelash told World Watch Monitor.

The Eritrean pastor who was imprisoned for his Christian activities and moved to the United Kingdom 18 years ago, said, “We’re seeing the abused becoming abusers. They know it is wrong but it was done to them too. The government, the president, has been successful in sowing division and creating mistrust. You can’t speak in Eritrea because it might make you end up in jail at any time”.

The rare protests that were seen in the streets of the capital Asmara in November, following the government’s plans to turn all schools public, were not a sign of a possible ‘Eritrean Spring’, according to him. It won’t be repeated again soon, he said, “because of what happened to the protesters: they were arrested, jailed, and tortured. They [the authorities] will make sure you won’t do it again. And it discourages anyone who has similar ideas”.

‘Who needs people?’

The pastor was visiting a refugee camp in Ethiopia three weeks ago. At the end of 2017 Ethiopia was host to 164,668 Eritrean refugees with most of them in transit to other destinations.

People are “streaming out of [Eritrea]”, he told World Watch Monitor. Just the week before about 5,000 people had crossed the border, he said.

World Watch Monitor reported last month that an estimated 10 per cent of Eritreans have fled the country since the turn of the millennium, finding refuge in neighbouring countries or crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety in Europe and beyond. They have become the ‘top group’ of African asylum seekers in 2017.

People leaving their country “is exactly what the government wants”, the Eritrean pastor said. “They say: ‘Who needs people? They only cause trouble’.”

He says that there are hardly any young people left in the country. “The regime makes it impossible for them to stay. They leave the country because they can’t find a job or have a normal family life because of the mandatory conscription. Or they are kidnapped, like the son of a friend of mine. He was sold to someone in Sudan and his father had to pay a ransom to get him back”.

It is a bleak picture the pastor paints of his home country, which has been dubbed the “North Korea of Africa”.

“The kind of people the government want in the country are like the woman I saw in a disturbing YouTube video”, he told World Watch Monitor.

“In an interview with the Eritrean state television she said she had been paralysed but that, after having washed herself in a dam that was built by the government, she had been healed. She praised the president for that. For her it was now first the president, then Jesus.”

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