For nine years, the wife of Haile Naigzhi – leader of Eritrea’s Full Gospel Church – waited bravely with her children for her husband’s release. He was arrested in May 2004 alongside at least five other prominent church leaders, after the Eritrean government’s contentious decision to outlaw many religious groups in 2002.
But the family’s difficulties didn’t stop there. In 2013, Mrs Naigzhi received credible information that the government wanted to arrest her – and not only her, but her children also. So they made the extremely difficult decision to flee their homeland. The escape out of Eritrea is fraught with danger: movement is heavily controlled through an internal travel-pass system and checkpoints; anyone trying to cross the border can be shot on sight. If you make it past those first two hurdles, you reach the desert, exposed to the unforgiving elements and lawless human traffickers. Whatever destination you aim for after that could see you either crossing the Mediterranean on a rickety boat or dodging deportation from African countries with diplomatic and ideological ties to the Eritrean government.
Though we cannot say where they fled to, we can say that the family has settled in a new country, where they have been granted asylum, after many months of hardship.
‘We feel safer here,’ Mrs Naigzhi shares. ‘We are able to freely serve God! I am also happy because the children are in a good school. [But] I miss my husband dearly. It is very lonely for me…‘ The family also miss their home and their friends. ‘It is difficult, but we hold on to Jesus.’
Her daughter and two sons long for the day they can return home and see their father again: ‘I am happy to be the daughter of a prisoner for Christ,‘ said the young girl. ‘He is the best dad ever! God will make things perfect one day, and I trust Him with all my heart. He is faithful to keep His word.’
When asked how we could pray for the family, Mrs Naigzhi says :
‘Pray for Haile and the other prisoners to be safe and strong and to be released soon so that we can be together again. Also pray that God will keep us safe until we find our way back to Eritrea. Please pray for our country.’
*Names of the family have been withheld to protect their identity
Source: World Watch Monitor and Open Doors
Please write to Haile’s family to let them know that you are praying for them and for Eritrea.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some simple letter-writing guidelines to help you.
Please send your letters to Release International, PO Box 54, Orpington, BR5 4RT