Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. — 2 Timothy 3:1
Open Doors USA, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians worldwide, has reported that 3 Christians in the nation of Eritrea have died while in prison. In all 3 cases, these Christians, members of underground churches, were arrested and detained for their faith.
Terhase Gebremichel Andu, 28, and Ferewine Genzabu Kifly, 21, died as the result of starvation and untreated health problems, confidential sources inside Eritrea told Open Doors. Andu died on Oct. 16 and Kifly died one week later on Sunday.
Both were arrested during a prayer meeting in 2009 at a private home in Tesenai, according to Open Doors. They faced two years of physical torture and were denied medical care inside Adersete Military Camp.
According to officials from Open Doors, 21 Christians have now died in prison in the small East African nation, located in the Horn of Africa. All were arrested and prosecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ. The government of Eritrea has banned all religions outside of the Orthodox Church, Catholocism and Islam. Approximately 2.2 million Christians – most of them Orthodox, live in the country. Evangelical Christians, a minority faith are not permitted to worship and face intense persecution. Simple actions as carrying a Bible, attending a Bible study or going to an underground church can lead to brutal attacks, imprisonment and torture. In many cases, Christians in Eritrea are forced to spend days in metal containers in the more than 90 degree temperatures of the African sun, literally roasting inside with no food or care.
“Eritrea is a small country that has a bulls-eye on the backs of evangelical Christians,” Open Doors spokesperson Jerry Dykstra stated. “President Afewerki denies that persecution takes place but the persecution of Christians, including keeping them in shipping boxes in the hot sun, has been well documented.”
According to Persecution.com, 500 evangelical Christians flee Eritrea each year due to persecution from a Marxist government that is seeking to eradicate the evangelical church. Even then, refugees face incredible hardships. Eritrea is a very difficult country to flee from, and in many cases, persecuted Christians become victims even as they escape their persecutors. The Barnabas Fund, a Christian outreach group that seeks to aid persecuted Christians in restricted nations, reported on the plight of refugees:
Those who manage to escape often flee to Egypt, where hundreds of refugees arrive every month, with the aim of crossing its border into Israel. Channel Four’s Unreported World highlighted the desperate plight of Eritrean refugees on Friday (3 June). The programme, “Breaking into Israel”, exposed how they are forced to put themselves in the hands of people-smugglers and make the arduous 900-mile journey across the Sinai desert. Some die along the way; others are shot dead as they attempt to cross the Egypt-Israel border; and those who are caught are sent home to almost certain torture and death.
Additionally, many refugees are kidnapped and forced into human trafficking. In some case, kidnappers demand as much as $20,000 US for their release.
Although this nation is small, the faith here is great. That believers continue to worship, share Gospel literature and stand for their faith in Jesus in the face of imprisonment is a testament to the power of God in people’s lives. If you are interested in helping the evangelical Christians in Eritrea, see here. And continue to pray for the safety of persecuted Christians in Eritrea and for God’s grace, that they can continue to be a light in a very dark area.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:12-14)