Eritrea, East Africa
Political Leader: President Isaias Afworki
Religions: Islam 48%, Christianity 47.4%, Other 4.6%
Persecution Ranking: No. 13
Number of Terrorist Groups: 4
Acts of Terrorism: 5; Casualties: 16
Percent of Corruption: 71%
% of People in Poverty: 50%
Eritrea is a country situated in northern East Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea. The country is virtually bisected by one of the world's longest mountain ranges, the Great Rift Valley, with fertile lands to the west and the descent to desert in the East.
The United States said in August 2007 that it was considering putting Eritrea on its list of state sponsors of terrorism for allegedly funneling weapons to insurgents fighting the Ethiopian-backed government in Somalia. A U.N. monitoring group said in July 2007 that large quantities of arms, including surface-to-air missiles, were flowing from Eritrea to Somalia. Eritrea has denied sending the weapons. Diplomats say Eritrea and Ethiopia have been waging a proxy war in Somalia since last year, when Eritrea backed a hardline Islamist movement against the country's government.
Eritrea is comprised of 48% Muslims and 47.4% of the population are Christians. Following a 2002 government decree that religious groups must register, the government closed all religious facilities not belonging to the country’s four principal religious groups: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Eritrea, Islam and the Roman Catholic Church.
Challenges for Christians:
Eritrea is ranked No. 13 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” On August 19, 2007, 10 members of the Full Gospel Church were arrested as they worshipped in a house in Asmara. Some 2,000 Eritrean Protestants are presently suffering for their faith under appalling conditions in prison. Recently, a group of 10 single Christian women who had been in prison for some 18 months were separated from other prisoners and taken to the Weaa Military Training Centre. The women were then ordered to recant their faith and were tortured when they refused. On September 5, 2007, Nigsti Haile, 33, was tortured to death. She is the fourth Christian to die in custody due to torture. The systematic persecution of Protestants began in mid-2002. Some Eritrean Catholic and Orthodox churches also have since come under attack for resisting the government's attempts to control them. On August 16, 2007, the government ordered that all schools, clinics, orphanages and women's vocational training centers of Eritrea's Catholic Church be turned over to the government's Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor. The government routinely dismissed U.S. government concerns, citing the absence of conflict between Christians and Muslims within the country and its concerns about disruptive practices of some religious groups that it feared would disrupt the country's “social harmony.” In November 2006, the U.S. Secretary of State again designated Eritrea as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
- Pray Eritrea to stop supporting hardline Islamist numerous terrorist groups.
- Eritrea is one of the world's most violently repressive states and religious liberty continues to deteriorate. Pray that God will bring change to Eritrea.
- Pray that even amidst their suffering, Eritrea’s Christian prisoners may experience the presence and love of Christ and be strengthened and enabled by the Spirit of God to both endure suffering and radiate grace. Pray that God would bless and comfort the Church in Eritrea.
- Pray for Christian solidarity, empathy and brotherly love to take root in the Eritrean Church across denominational lines so that spiritual unity may be a fruit of this persecution.
- Pray that God will awaken more European leaders to the great need for religious liberty advocacy in Eritrea.
- Pray that there will a genuine end to the hostility between Eritrea and Ethiopia and humility and trust between the two countries’ leaders.
- Government restrictions have stopped Christian organizations from bringing help and aid into Eritrea and made it hard for any Christians to go and live or work there. Pray that these restrictions would be lifted.
- A third of the population are Tigre, who are almost entirely Muslim. Pray for the few Tigre who are Christians that they can be a powerful witness in their lives.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, Reuters, World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, Compass Direct, The World Factbook