Although the East African nation of Eritrea has a population of just 6 million, this tiny country is one of the leading sources of refugees in Europe. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is a lack of religious freedom. In 2002 the Eritrean government outlawed the freedom of worship outside of Islam and the denominations of Orthodoxy, Evangelical Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, driving all other Christian churches underground. Since then, thousands of Christians have been arrested and imprisoned without assistance in the legal process. Among them are a number of prominent church leaders who were arrested 12 years ago. They are denied access to proper medical care because they refuse to renounce Christ.
Please join us in praying for the church leaders below:
Haile Naigzhi: The leader of Eritrea’s Full Gospel Church. He was arrested during the early morning hours of 23 May 2004 from his home and remains in prison in Asmara. He has a wife and three teenage children who have had to flee the country.
Kiflu Gebremeskel: The chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance, senior pastor and leading figure in the Full Gospel Church, has been imprisoned since May 2004. Dr Kiflu was a mathematics lecturer who was faculty head in the University of Asmara until 1999, when he became a full-time pastor. He has never been charged with a crime or brought before a court. His wife and four children have not been able to visit him.
Kidane Weldou: A senior pastor of the Full Gospel Church and member of the executive committee of Gideons International in Eritrea. When his vehicle was found abandoned in 2005, his wife and four children assumed he had been arrested. Believed to be in Wongel Mermera prison.
Futsum Gebrenegus: An Orthodox priest and Eritrea’s only psychiatrist. Futsum was arrested in November 2004 for allegedly being involved in the renewal movement within the Orthodox Church.
Gebremedhin Gebregiorsis: An expert theologian and Orthodox priest. He also was arrested in November 2004 for allegedly being involved in the renewal movement within the Orthodox Church.
Tekleab Menghisteab: A highly respected physician and Orthodox priest – he, too, was arrested in November 2004 for alleged involvement in the renewal movement within the Orthodox Church.
Pastor Meron Gebreselasie: The pastor of Massawa Rhema Church and an anesthetist at Massawa Hospital. He was arrested on 3 June 2004 at a police checkpoint. Meron was taken to the Police Station Number Two where he was held for two months before being relocated to Wongel Mermera.
Rev Ogbamichael Teklehaimanot: A senior pastor of the Kale Hiwot Church. He was arrested for participating in a Protestant wedding ceremony in 2005 and subjected to 10 months of solitary confinement and hard labour at Sawa military camp. Released after six years, then re-arrested six months later, after a fleeing church member, who was being monitored, called him.
Deposed Orthodox Patriarch Abune Antonios: Head of the Orthodox Church, removed from his position in 2007 after criticising the Eritrean government for interference in church activities. Two priests accompanied by government security agents entered the Patriarch’s residence and confiscated his personal pontifical insignia. He was replaced by Abune Dioskoros – a development orchestrated by the Eritrean government. Patriarch Antonios, who has never been charged with any offence, remains under house arrest and strict state surveillance.
- For the Lord to comfort and strengthen those in prison for Him
- That these church leaders will be able to continue living out a testimony for Christ in the midst of their circumstances. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:2-4
- For good health in spite of terrible conditions and that they will be released soon.
- For the church in Eritrea to be strong in faith, not to be in fear, and that the Lord will grow and sustain his people in the face of severe persecution.
*Source: World Watch Monitor
**For many years, Release’s partners have been providing crucial support to Christians suffering inside Eritrea and are helping Eritrean refugees survive in Ethiopia.Be inspired by the faith journeys of Eritrean Christians by watching out new DVD, A long Way From Home.
***Illustration by Elizabeth Wang, Code: T-00472-OL ‘Over the abyss of spiritual darkness, our faith in Christ allows us to cling to a thread of hope’ copyright © Radiant Light 2006,http://www.radiantlight.org.uk