Published On: Wed, Jun 7th, 2017

Nearly 100 Eritrean Christians arrested for illegal church denominations

While many people can’t find the country of Eritrea on a map, it is the 10th harshest persecutor of Christians in the world, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List. A new report provides shocking insight into the plight of Christ followers as nearly 100 Christians were arrested as part of a crackdown on “unapproved churches.”

Open Doors USA’s Emily Fuentes explains, “In Eritrea, the situation at surface level would seem like there’s religious freedom. They allow for certain denominations of Christians to meet openly…. So, [for example], the Orthodox churches are totally okay in Eritrea. The problem is, anyone who is not part of a particular denomination that is approved by the government — and there’s only four — if they meet in their homes, if they do anything, it’s considered a crime.”

Photo/Vectorportal via wikimedia commons

In May, the Eritrean government arrested almost 100 based on door-to-door interrogations, accusations from neighbors, and even the disruption of a post-wedding reception.

Christians who meet outside the approved denominational churches face very harsh conditions.


“They’re rounded up and put into storage container prisons many times. Eritrea is on the eastern side of the continent of Africa where it gets extremely hot. These people are sometimes locked in storage containers with very little air ventilation and up to 120 degree heat. [They] often get sick from the lack of hygiene in these places, and often don’t get the food they require to stay nourished. So it’s a horrific place for Christians who don’t fall into the approved denominations.”

Eritrea frequently commits human rights violations like this, and thousands continue to flee the country, with nearly half the population unreached with the Gospel, Christians are still witnessing their faith.

“People have to be extremely careful of how they practice their faith, who they share their faith with, because if they get discovered, it means one of these horrific situations like these storage container prison camps,” says Fuentes.

“But people are still willing to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel. People are still evangelizing in this country. There are pastors having small groups and churches meet together. So you find the Gospel spreads in spite of all the fear tactics that are taking place from the government.”

The four allowed religious denominations in the country are Sunni Islam, Orthodox Christian, Catholic Christian, and Evangelical Lutheran.

Fuentes suggested concerned followers, “First and foremost is absolutely be praying for their protection, for more freedoms, [and] for less human rights violations. We’ve got some specific ways you can pray on the country page of our website.”

Click here to go to the Eritrea country information page at Open Doors’ website!

“Additionally, an advocacy standpoint that many readers and listeners can take is by signing our petition to President Trump asking him to appoint an International Religious Freedom [Ambassador]-at-Large. This commissioner evaluates the world, but specifically where there are hot areas of persecution against religious minorities. In many countries, that’s the number one minority is Christian.”

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