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Located on the Red Sea, Eritrea is governed by a totalitarian regime that seeks to control every aspect of life. Some have compared Eritrea to the “hermit kingdom” of North Korea, as it is one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world. In 2002, the government outlawed every form of religion except Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism and the Lutheran Church. All other religious groups are illegal, and the government maintains tight control of approved churches, including their messages. Years of communism, required military service and economic depression have forced many Eritreans, including evangelical believers, to flee the country. Despite these hardships, the underground church in Eritrea continues to grow due to the faithfulness of church leaders inside and outside the country. A 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended a two-decade war, but the benefits have been one-sided. While Ethiopians may travel freely between the two countries, travel for Eritreans is restricted by their government. The situation for Eritrean believers has not changed, and very few Christian prisoners have been released.
The population is nearly evenly divided between Sunni Muslims and Christians, about 3 percent of whom are evangelical Christians.
The authoritarian government arrests, imprisons and harasses Christians.
What It Means To Follow Christ In Eritrea:
Evangelical churches must meet secretly. The government actively seeks to infiltrate these underground churches and imprison their leaders. About 600 believers are known to remain in prison, including several top leaders. Imprisoned Christians are not given a trial or allowed to see their families, many of whom do not know where their loved ones are imprisoned or even if they are still alive. Christians simply disappear and are assumed to be in government prisons. The conditions inside these “prisons” are some of the harshest in the world. Christian prisoners are provided meager rations and held in shipping containers in extreme desert conditions for years.
Access To Bibles:
Bibles are available, but the government tracks each Bible sold. Christian literature is highly regulated, and most believers who want Bibles must smuggle them in. For this reason, many believers must access Scripture by digital means. Give Bibles
VOM supports Christian prisoners and their families. We provide Bibles and Christian literature to believers inside Eritrea. Give to VOM’s Global Ministry
- Pray for Eritrean believers and church leaders living in refugee camps outside Eritrea.
- Pray for the financial, physical and spiritual needs of Eritrean prisoners’ families.
- Pray for the government and for those in authority, including Eritrea’s longtime dictator, Isaias Afwerki.
- Pray that churches and their leaders will remain faithful, strong and committed to sharing the gospel.
- Pray for more Christian resources in the Tigrinya language for Eritrean youth.
- Pray for underground-church leaders inside Eritrea.
- Pray for the continued development of a Bible school for Eritrean believers.
- Pray for a VOM-sponsored radio ministry reaching out to Eritreans.