Being a Christian in Eritrea

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Eritrea is the most restricted nation for religious freedom on the African continent.  Rebels, inspired by the Chinese Communist Revolution, led a bloody revolution for 30 years (from 1960’s to 1991) leading to the country’s independence from Ethiopia.

The independent nation fought again with Ethiopia in one of the bloodiest conflicts in Africa’s history.  On July 8 of this year there was a formal end to the war.

Eritrea was Africa’s largest single source of refugees to Europe from 2014 to 2016. Over the past decade so many people have left that Eritrea has been called the world’s fastest-emptying nation. It has been likened to Cuba and the former East Germany.

The sole legal political party, People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, has isolated the nation.  All media is state-run and there is no provision of freedom of speech, press or religion making the country ranked just behind North Korea for press freedom.   The Human Rights Watch indicates that the Eritrean government’s human rights record is among the worst in the world.  In the middle of this political conflict, thousands of Christians are subjected to treatment and conditions that would be considered criminal in the U.S. if used just on livestock.

Christians have been locked in metal shipping containers in the unrelenting desert sun.  The containers sometimes contain so many people that there is no room for them to sit down.  Provided little food or water they are also subjected to emotional and physical abuse.  Just for sharing their faith in Jesus or refusing to deny Him.

Their president, Isaias Afwerki, has failed to ratify the nation’s constitution, canceled presidential elections, outlawed other political parties and has embraced atheism.

One father is now raising his four children alone in a fugitive camp in Ethiopia after his wife died in prison because she refused to deny Jesus.  After his wife’s death he realized there was a strong chance he would be imprisoned and there would be no one to take care of his children.  To reach the fugitive camps in Ethiopia he and his children traveled by night trying to avoid the Eritrean guards.  If caught, his older boys would be forced into the military while the younger children would probably, with him, be sent to prison.

Miraculously they made it safely to Ethiopia.  While life in the camp is not the best of circumstances, at least they are safe from prison and can worship God in freedom.

When asked about his family’s experience with being a Christian in Eritrean, he replied.

“The Bible taught us that we should take up our cross.  We have to lose our life for Christ, and it happened to my wife.  This is the history of Christianity.  It is not strange, it is not something new.”

While not new in history or in many other countries, it certainly is not the gospel that is preached today in many churches.

Will you today take a moment to thank God for your freedom to worship (or not to worship) as you choose?

Will you today take a moment to pray for the Christians, not only in Eritrean, but around the world who do not have that freedom?

 

 

 

I will not let them suffer alone!

Marks of Christ

A wonderful Thanksgiving!

It was a great Thanksgiving this year.  Our youngest granddaughter spent the night before with us – and slept all snuggled up next to me.  The morning brought her mother and father and while I made the scalloped potatoes and banana pudding that my family love, my daughter fixed all the rest of the food.  Afterwards, my husband and son-in-law cleaned up.

The family gathered around the table was not as many as in years past as our children and grandchildren are scattered all around the USA, but I was thankful for the calls and texts from many of them.

So much to be thankful for:

  • While we have aches and pains, none of my family have any life-threatening illnesses.
  • My children all have jobs/homes.
  • I have a terrific husband.

But what about the rest of the world?

As we all rush out to find great bargains on this “black Friday” I think of those who did not sit down yesterday to a table loaded with delicious food.  Those who did not lay their body down last night on a soft, comfortable bed with warm blankets.

My thoughts last night were especially of my Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.  For them, there was no big meal with family and friends all gathered around.  Many are in prison and have not seen their families in weeks, months, even years.  For them, there was not a big shopping day.

But what can I do about it?

Many times we feel like there is nothing we can do about people suffering on the other side of the world.  We do not have enough money, enough political power, no army.  What can we do?

There is much we can do!

Start with prayer.

We often say to someone who shares a need that we cannot fix, “All I can do is pray.”  But never under-estimate the power of prayer.

Samuel M. Zwemer, a missionary and Christian scholar on Islam, said: “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer…it is the key to the whole missionary problem. All human means are secondary.” J. Oswald Sanders said: “[Prayer] is fundamental, not supplementary…. All progress can be clearly traced back to prevailing prayer.”

How can we pray?

  • Pray for God to move in the hearts of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, so that they may know Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • Pray for God to change  the hearts of governmental authorities (Proverbs 21:1).

Pastor Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) writes how God used him while he was in prison.  He credits having the courage and strength to be a witness and survive the harsh treatment of prison to the prayers of God’s people.

This is part of his story!

In Romania, Pastor Wurmbrand was interrogated many times during his 14 years in prison. One of his interrogators, Lieutenant Grecu, questioned Pastor Wurmbrand about his activities with the underground church. Wurmbrand described Grecu as “a tough young man… indoctrinated with the belief that he was making a better world.”
After accusing Pastor Wurmbrand of lying about his contacts, Grecu ordered him to write out all the rules that Pastor broke in prison. Pastor Wurmbrand willingly sat at the table to write out his “declaration.” It had been two years since he had held a pen, so it was difficult to write. He persisted in writing all the rules he had broken, ending his “confession” with: “I have never spoken against the Communists. I am a disciple of Christ, who had given us love for our enemies. I understand them and pray for their conversion so that they will become my brothers in the Faith….”
When Grecu read the “declaration,” he was overwhelmed that Pastor could write of his love for a government that had put him in prison and tortured him. Grecu said, “This is one of your Christian commandments that no one can keep.” To that, Pastor lovingly responded: “It’s not a matter of keeping a commandment. When I became a Christian, it was as if I had been reborn, with a new character full of love. Just as only water can flow from a spring, so only love can come from a loving heart.”
Over time, Pastor had more opportunities to talk about Christ with Lieutenant Grecu. One day he had the wonderful privilege, in his own prison cell, to see Grecu come to Christ.

Don’t let them suffer alone!

Pray.  Write letters.  Educate yourself about the persecution in the world.   Check out http://www.persecution.com/

 

Ten Ways to Pray for Our Persecuted Family

I recently shared some information about a very important organization, VOM.  (The Voice of the Martyrs)

I would like to share more information about how you can pray for those who are being persecuted around the world for their faith.

  1. Pray that persecuted believers will sense god’s presence.
  2. Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ.
  3. Pray that they will experience God’s comfort when their family members are killed, injured, or imprisoned for their witness.
  4. Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel.
  5. Pray for their boldness to make Christ known.
  6. Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors.
  7. Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them.
  8. Pray that they will rejoice in suffering.
  9. Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith.
  10. Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers.

Voice of the Martyrs

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting our persecuted family worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States. Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church. The Voice of the Martyrs continues in this mission around the world today through the following main purposes:

Their ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3:

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

VOM’s Five Main Purposes

  1. To encourage and empower Christians to fulfill the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. To provide practical relief and spiritual support to the families of Christian martyrs.
  3. To equip persecuted Christians to love and win to Christ those who are opposed to the gospel in their part of the world.
  4. To undertake projects of encouragement, helping believers rebuild their lives and Christian witness in countries where they have formerly suffered oppression.
  5. To promote the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of the faith and courage of persecuted Christians, thereby inspiring believers to a deeper level of commitment to Christ and involvement in His Great Commission.

VOM’s Mission Statement

“Serving the persecuted church through practical and spiritual assistance while leading Christians in the free world into fellowship with them.”

Persecution Against Christians is Growing!

Thankful for the religious freedom we have in the USA!

We take for granted our freedom to pick up our Bible, head to our car on Sunday morning and walk into church without any fear of being killed, or hauled off to prison.  Everywhere I look in my town I also see Jewish centers, Muslim mosques and even Hindu temples.  On their religious days, there are no rioters standing outside threatening them for their beliefs.

Not everyone enjoys that religious freedom – especially Christians!

Open Doors International, a charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith recently released a report noting that nearly twice as many Christians died for their faith in the past year than in 2013.

  • 2012 – 1,201 Christians killed
  • 2013 – 2,123 Christians killed
  • 2014 – over 4,000 Christians killed

In Syria alone more Christians were killed than were killed world-wide in 2013.

This is only the minimum count

These numbers are only the ones who were documented as killed.  Estimates of the total number killed range from around 7,000 or 8,000 (International Institute for Religious Freedom) to 100,000 (Center for the Study of Global Christianity-Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary).

“Christians aren’t always directly killed, but are so much squeezed with regulations and vulnerabilities that they just perish – not at once, but in the course of years. If we would include them in the counting, it would be an enormous number of people. However, the precise number of Christians who die due to these factors is very difficult to quantify.”  – World Watch List.

Countries leading the list of persecution

  • Syria – 1,213
  • Nigeria – 612
  • Pakistan – 88
  • Egypt – 83
  • Kenya – 20
  • Angola – 16
  • Niger – 15
  • Central African Republic – 9

The numbers killed in North Korea are difficult to confirm since public information is very limited.  The World Watch List believes the number of Christians killed in the Central African Republic is probably also much larger than reported.

These number killed does not include

  • physical aggression
  • threats
  • destruction of churches or other Christian buildings
  • attempts to destroy churches or Christian buildings
  • closure of churches or Christian buildings
  • house expulsion or destruction
  • kidnap for ransom or intimidation
  • sexual assault
  • arrests
  • displacement

What should Christians in the USA do?

  • I would suggest that we start by understanding how fortunate we are – and not take our freedom for granted.  How many times do we stay home from church – or go grudgingly because “we need to” without stopping to think of those who will be risking persecution – maybe even death – by going to church.  Maybe we should see it as a privilege and not a duty.
  • Pray – pray – pray for our fellow Christians in these countries.  Pray for protection, for boldness, for encouragement.
  • Become informed about what is going on in the world.  There are websites that can help you understand the persecution taking place so that you are more aware of how to pray.
  • Pray – pray – pray for those who are persecuting the Christians.  God loves them also – Jesus died for them also.  Realize that they are not the enemy – Satan is.  They need our prayers as much – maybe more – than our fellow Chrsitians.  Pray that they will come to know the love of God found in Jesus.  Pray that their hatred will end.
  • Finally, make sure we show respect and love to those in our country who are not Christians whether they are of another belief – or just non-believers.