According to Release partners in Eritrea, all evangelical and independent churches have been closed, and many Christians tortured for their faith. Last year, Eritreans were the second largest group to risk the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life in Europe. The largest group were from Syria, where a five-year civil war is dragging on.
As of December 2015, however, more than 130,000 Eritreans were living as refugees in neighbouring Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR.
Release International visited a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where Christians who had fled Eritrea revealed the extent of the brutal treatment they experienced.
‘There is no law and no justice. When I was living in Eritrea I was arrested because of my Christian faith. That’s why I left. In Eritrea almost every Christian faces imprisonment,’ one refugee, Dawit, said.
He spent more than a month in prison, and also in a hard labour camp. He says he was tortured, and forced to sleep every night with his hands and feet lashed together behind his back.
‘Eritrea is like a giant prison… like North Korea, but in Africa.’ – Dr Berhane Asmelash
Elsa fled Eritrea after her sister was beaten to death by prison guards. ‘We were kept in underground cells. Sometimes the guards put us both in a metal shipping container to torture us. This became so hot during the day and then in the night it became freezing cold,’ she recalled.
‘The guards offered to let us go, but only if we renounced our faith in Jesus. We said no.’ – Elsa, Eritrean refugee
In June 2015, a year-long UN inquiry into human rights in Eritrea found:
‘the systematic violation of an array of human rights on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere in the world…Interference in religious structures and affairs is rampant..Religious materials are confiscated. Adherents are arbitrarily arrested, ill-treated or subjected to torture during their detention, and prisoners are coerced to recant their faith. Many religious followers have been killed or have disappeared.’
The UN Commission concluded that the Eritrean government ‘perceives religion as a threat to its existence and has set about controlling it and its expressions.’
Release International is supporting Eritrean refugees by helping them to set up small businesses in the camps.
Temesgen has set up a photography shop. He takes and edits pictures in the camp, and has them printed in the local town.
‘This shop has really helped us to support the family. We can live a normal life, providing for ourselves. This refugee camp may seem like a wilderness but we feel God’s presence and we are together. The greatest thing now is that we can express our faith openly.’ he said.
Deborah, another Eitrean refugee, urged Christians around the world to pray for those suffering for their faith.
‘Please pray for protection for us as we share our faith under enormous pressure. Pray for wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to lead us. Pray for Christian prisoners that God would strengthen their faith while in jail. Pray too for good health in spite of the terrible conditions and that they would be released soon. Pray for the church here to be strong in faith, not to be in fear but to keep on declaring the kingdom of God and sharing the gospel with others,’ she said.
‘Pray for justice to come to Eritrea.’
Source: Christian Today