Religious freedom remains a major issue. A 2002 government ruling banned all religious groups from meeting together and practicing their faith without official recognition, and it granted recognition only to Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran groups. The effects of this on all Eritreans are significant, especially so on Christians within non-approved groups. Some posit this as a reaction against the evangelical growth within the Orthodox Church and during the long war with Ethiopia. Pray for government acceptance of religious groups and for restoration of basic human rights and religious freedom to all Eritreans.
The Christian Church faces terrible ongoing persecution, both outside the recognized churches and, to some degree, within. Many leaders and lay members are in prison, and more are under house arrest; the government has seized many church assets. Christians are largely Orthodox, mostly from among the Tigrinya, with some from among the Kunama, Bilen or other peoples. Evangelicals are fewer, but are present to varying degrees within most denominations. Christians of all denominations have been refined and drawn together in fellowship through recent decades due to war, drought and government oppression. But the intense suffering of the Church in Eritrea is one of the untold stories of the past decade - a story of tragedy and ultimately, we pray, great spiritual harvest. Pray that Christians may remain fervent for Jesus amid hardship and make a significant impact on their nation and beyond.
Evangelicals are growing despite severe persecution. Being officially banned, these groups now operate in underground networks based in homes. Around 20 or more networks are known, but numbers are impossible to ascertain. Pray for these issues:
- Imprisonment and torture are reality. Key evangelical leaders were imprisoned following the ban on their churches. Since then, arrests have included pastors, prominent evangelicals in society and, more recently, those known to practice their faith. Prison conditions are harsh - beatings and agonizing torture techniques cripple many and even lead to death in some cases. Some estimate that over 3,000 Christians are currently in prison. Pray for those in prison, that they may be strengthened and enabled to endure suffering while radiating grace. Pray also for their families, who often find themselves bereft of not only loved ones but usually of the income earner as well.
- Ongoing evangelistic outreach. Amid such hardship, the Church has grown rapidly, often most among those fleeing the country, those living in camps in Ethiopia and elsewhere, those in prison and those living abroad. Witnessing Christians, though violently opposed by the authorities, have spread far and wide. Still, many villages and towns remain unimpacted by the gospel. Pray for continued commitment of believers to preach Christ whatever the cost and without compromise.
- Harvest among the Eritrean diaspora, both in the wider region in Africa and globally. Many suffer by proxy with their brethren back in Eritrea, but significant numbers of Eritreans outside the country are encountering the Lord Jesus in profound ways. Pray for this to continue and to multiply.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.