Christians gathering to pray in Eritrea are being arrested. Two prayer meetings were recently raided by soldiers in the African nation leading to the arrest of 35 individuals – many of them women.
The news comes from the group Release International, an inter-denominational Christian ministry working through local church partners in more than 25 countries, that offers practical ways to help persecuted Christians. The group reports that 23 people were arrested in the Eritrean capital Asmara. Later, an additional 12 Christians were arrested in Assab.
In the past six months 171 Christians have been arrested for praying. ‘But this latest wave of arrests is proof positive there has been no change in the repressive government policy towards religious freedom,’ says Eritrean church leader Dr. Berhane Asmelash, a partner of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide.
Because so many are arrested, and to keep them away from the general population, Christians are typically imprisoned in shipping containers. The dark, dank and often dangerous conditions with no sanitary facilities, often leads to illness and worse.
35 Christians have been arrested in Eritrea for hosting prayer meetings – according to a persecution watchdog. @ReleaseInt says hopes of a change of heart towards Christians in the country have been dashed. Read: https://t.co/LbhJxR59ms / @UCBMedia pic.twitter.com/yAD3zPIskM
— UCB News (@UCBNewsTeam) March 31, 2021
Of the Christians arrested in Asmara, 22 were released from Mai Sarawa prison on April 11, however, it is not known why one Christian remains in captivity.
The 12 arrested in Assab are reportedly being held in a remote area of the city and under harsh conditions, the Barnabas Fund reports.
Pastor Asmelash requested prayers for the Christians still imprisoned and for their families as they anxiously await their release.
“Pray for all Eritrea, for a change of policy, for democracy and freedom of worship,” Dr. Asmelash said. “Unless there is a change of policy these will continue to be dangerous times for Christians in Eritrea, where many are suffering for their faith.”
Eritrea remains one of the worst countries in the world for people of faith. It ranks 6th on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
“Eritrea has been likened to the North Korea of Africa,” says Release International CEO Paul Robinson. “Release continues to press the government to release its prisoners of faith – every one of them. We urge Eritrea to repeal its restrictive religious laws and grant full freedom of faith to its citizens.”
Eritrea’s government outlawed all Pentecostal churches nearly 20 years ago and only recognizes four faith groups, including Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Eritrea.
Reports reveal that government authorities are even conducting raids targeting citizens in their own homes.
What you can do:
Please pray with us for Christians arrested in Eritrea:
- Pray that everyone in this group of recent arrests would experience God’s transcendent peace and comfort as they endure this persecution.
- Pray for the Lord’s spiritual and physical provision to these men, women and children.
- Pray that they would not be ruled by fear but rather by the love of God who gives us sound minds.
- Pray that the Lord would glorify himself through the testimonies of our brothers and sisters.
- Pray that God would soften the heart of President Afwerki and draw the country’s government leaders to Himself.
- And pray for the secret church of Eritrea. Ask God to give these believers His wisdom, discernment and courage as they follow Jesus in the volatile country.