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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #6

ERITREA

Country rank

6

Persecution score

87.76

Last year’s rank

6

Region

Africa

Persecution Type

Christian Denominational protectionism (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Very strong), Organized corruption and crime (Strong), Islamic oppression (Medium)

Persecution Level

Extreme

Population

5,432,000

Christians

2,552,000 (47.0%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential republic

Leader

President Isaias Afwerki

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Eritrea through:
• Practical assistance
• Encouraging positive engagement on behalf of the church
• Bible and discipleship training
• Spiritual support to mitigate the effects of persecution

ABOUT ERITREA

What does persecution look like in Eritrea?

Christians from non-traditional denominations face the harshest persecution in Eritrea, both from the government and from the Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC). The EOC is the only Christian denomination recognized by the government, and it is tightly controlled by those in power. 

Government security forces monitor phone calls, scrutinize activity and conduct countless raids which target Christians, seize Christian materials and damage house churches. Christians can be arrested and imprisoned without trial. Many Christians are held in inhumane prisons because of their faith, and their loved ones often do not know where they are or even if they are still alive. In June 2020, the UN reported that there was no meaningful progress to address human rights violations in Eritrea.

Non-EOC Christians and Christians from a Muslim background face extreme opposition from their families and communities and from the state, often being denied crucial social services and other resources. 

How women experience persecution

Unlike many countries, women in Eritrea are subjected to obligatory military service. Christian women who are conscripts are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, while detained or imprisoned female Christians often experience violence from prison guards.

In rural areas of Eritrea, abduction and forced marriages are still prevalent. If a Muslim abducts a Christian woman, she will be forcibly converted.

Further, there is no legislation specifically addressing domestic violence in Eritrea, so female converts will often face physical abuse, house incarceration, threat of being reported to the government, loss of custody of children and forced divorce. 

How men experience persecution

Because most underground church leadership positions are held by men, any arrests among them causes a leadership vacuum. In cases where an arrested man is the breadwinner, his arrest causes economic distress to his family, an unstable childhood for his children and consistent fear.

What has changed this year?

There had been hope that a peace agreement with Ethiopia would improve human rights in Eritrea, but there has been little indication of this – and unrest at the Ethiopia/Eritrea border in fall 2020 has threatened stability. Violence continues to worsen in Eritrea.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Protestants, and Christians from denominations other than the Eritrean Orthodox Church, are particularly vulnerable to persecution. Christians from a Muslim background are also very vulnerable.

How can I help Christians in Eritrea?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Eritrea?

Open Doors works through local church partners in Eritrea to provide practical assistance to persecuted Christians, to support Bible and discipleship training, and to raise awareness and prayer.

Pray

– Pray that believers’ faith would grow, that their love would increase, and that their faith would be steadfast in persecution and affliction.

– Pray that Eritrean Christians and church leaders would have wisdom and opportunities to engage their government on the topic of religious freedom. 

– Pray for those suffering terrible conditions in prison, held because of their faith, and for the Christian women and children whose husbands and fathers are in prison. Pray that the Lord would show His grace to these families and provide for their spiritual and physical needs.

A PRAYER FOR ERITREA

Father God, please protect Your children in Eritrea. Convict the hearts of those who persecute them, particularly those who profess to follow Jesus and yet still persecute His children. We ask that You would free Eritrean Christians from prison, as you did with the apostle Paul and Silas. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Eritrea, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.