World Watch Ranking: 6

How many Christians are there in Eritrea?

Almost half of Eritreans are Christians – 2.6 million from a population of 5.5 million – but Christians who aren’t from state-approved denominations face extreme persecution.

What does persecution look like in Eritrea?

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.

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.

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.

Meet "Shiden"

Shiden was imprisoned for more than a decade—simply for worshipping Jesus. He was arrested with 40 other people when he was caught during a secret worship service. He has been very damaged by the experience, but thankfully he is now improving.

"I will serve the Lord until I die; I want to serve the Lord for the rest of my days; I want to be a hero of the faith, too, and one day in the future claim the crown of righteousness that is laid up for me, which the Lord will award to me on that day.”


What has changed compared to last 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.

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Eritrea?

Open Doors works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide discipleship training, economic empowerment projects and persecution survival training.

How can you pray for Eritrea?

  • Pray that imprisoned Christians and their families will be sustained by God's grace and presence.
  • Pray for wisdom, discernment and boldness for believers as they seek to meet together despite the threat of surveillance.  
  • Pray that Christians from Islamic and Orthodox backgrounds will be encouraged and empowered to stand firm in their faith.
a prayer for Eritrea

Heavenly Father, we pray for all our brothers and sisters currently imprisoned for their faith. May they and their families find strength today in Your peace, "which transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). Thank You that some Christians have been released in recent months; powerfully intervene to bring about the release of more. Provide fellowship for all believers and protect gatherings from the watchful eyes of the state. Work in the heart of President Afwerki to bring him to repentance and to show him the valuable role Christians play in Eritrean society. Amen.  

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Map thumbnail
Persecution Level


Persecution Type
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Christian denominational protectionism
  • Organized corruption and crime
  • Islamic oppression
Population of Christians
2,611,000 (47.0%)

Main Religion

Presidential Republic

President Isaias Afwerki

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