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?