What does persecution look like in Eritrea?
Eritrea has lingered in the top 10 of the World Watch List for years. It's known as the "North Korea of Africa" due to its intense authoritarian government. Eritrea only recognizes three Christian denominations (Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran), so anyone who follows Jesus outside of these sanctioned churches is at constant risk. Even in the recognized churches, the government closely monitors every congregation. Speaking out about persecution or government interference in church matters is not tolerated at all.
Raids to round up believers who worship God outside of the recognized denominations are common. When Christians are caught in these raids, they can be sent into Eritrea's notorious prison network, where they can be detained indefinitely. Current estimates suggest around 1,000 Eritrean Christians are imprisoned—and they haven't been charged with any crime. Members of some house churches have been in prison for more than 10 years, enduring shocking conditions, including solitary confinement in tiny cells.
The government watches every citizen of Eritrea, promoting a stigma against Christians. This means that anyone who converts from Islam or leaves the Eritrean Orthodox Church to be part of an evangelical or Pentecostal church is likely to come under intense pressure from their family and community, along with the government. Following Jesus in Eritrea comes at an incredible cost, but courageous believers continue to walk with Him.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians who convert from Islam (and, to a lesser extent, leave Orthodoxy for Protestantism) face the most pressure from family and community—but all Christians in Eritrea face intense scrutiny from the government, risking arrest and indefinite detention.
"Abdullah spent two years in prison. His wife says she was not allowed to bring him any extra clothes to him, and he only received food three times a week. Only when Abdullah became debilitatingly sick and insisted on medical attention was he taken to the hospital. Sadly, it was too late and Abdullah passed away in 2022.”Abdullah, an Eritrean church leader—an Open Doors partner in the region shared his story with us
What has changed this year?
Little has changed in Eritrea this year. Following Jesus remains incredibly dangerous, and anyone outside of the four recognized religious groups (the three Christian groups and Islam) is subject to arrest, torture, imprisonment and eventual death. Even those within the recognized Christian denominations are targets for government surveillance and arrest.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Eritrea?
Open Doors works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide economic empowerment projects, discipleship and persecution survival training.
How can you pray for Eritrea?
- The Eritrean government only recognizes three Christian denominations. Ask that God would intervene to bring about freedom for all of His people.
- Christians are at risk of arrest and forced military service. Pray for grace for prisoners and those forced into the military against their will.
- Imprisoned Christians in Eritrea’s extensive prison network are often tortured, and medical treatment is withheld when they are sick. Pray that God’s Spirit will be their comfort and companion in prison.