Eritrea: Persecution Intensifies and Widens

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 419 | Wed 07 Mar 2007

In May 2002 some 20,000 Protestant Christians found themselves in
churches that had become illegal when the Eritrean government
banned all Christian churches other than the Eritrean Orthodox,
Roman Catholic and Mekane Yesus (Evangelical Lutheran)
denominations. Initially the Orthodox Church supported the
repression. However, during 2004, youths and then priests from the
Orthodox Church's Medhane Alem renewal movement started to get
arrested. The Patriarch protested, so the government intensified
its attacks on the Orthodox Church.

In August 2005, to counter the Orthodox Church's growing
opposition, the Eritrean government deposed Patriarch Abune
Antonios and put him under house arrest. To get more control over
the church the government appointed Yeftehe Dimetros as church
administrator. On 5 December 2006 it then ruled that all tithes
collected through the Orthodox Church be deposited in a government
account from which it would control church finances and pay
priests. The government will also set a quota for priests and any
'extra' priests are to present for military service.

Aid organisations are also targeted. On 4 December 2006, nine
Samaritan's Purse aid workers were arrested a month after the
organisation had been ordered to leave the country.

On 4 January 2007 military commanders at the national Sawa Military
Centre conducted what they termed a 'random check-up on the
activities of Christian extremists' among teenage student
conscripts. Some 250 Bibles, the personal property of Christian
students, were confiscated and burnt. Thirty-five Christian teenage
conscripts were then singled out for deterrent 'severe punishment'
which included torture as routine. Today more than 2,000 Eritrean
Christians are incarcerated in appalling conditions for their

On 15 February 2007 Magos Solomon Semere (30) died in the Adi-
Nefase Military Confinement facility just outside Assab. Compass
Direct reports that his death was 'due to physical torture and
persistent pneumonia, for which he was forbidden proper medical
treatment'. Semere (when 23) had been arrested in August 2000 and
served 18 months for his evangelism. Three months after his release
in July 2002 Semere, just engaged to be married, was re-arrested
for worshipping in a banned Protestant fellowship. During his four-
and-a-half-year imprisonment Semere was refused permission to see
his fiancee. When he became seriously ill he was told he would get
medical treatment only if he renounced his faith. Having already
endured extreme hardship and extensive torture Semere elected to
persevere and go to his Lord rather than renounce him. Semere is
the third Christian to die in custody due to torture since October

In 2001 the government imprisoned all its opposition and closed all
private media. Eritreans risk their lives and liberty to leak this
information so we can pray and advocate for them.

On 23 February Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki met with a
European Union delegation. The president indicated that Eritrea
needs support in its efforts to ensure security of food supplies
and to develop infrastructure. He said his government would welcome
any party that wishes to assist Eritrea 'without strings attached'.
According to Eritrea's Ministry of Information the European
Commission delegation expressed readiness to co-operate.


* the courageous Eritrean Christians, human rights and democracy
advocates who risk their lives to give us this information about
the persecution of the Church in Eritrea.

* the courageous Eritrean Christians continuing to meet for
prayer, Bible study, teaching, worship and fellowship; may God
protect and preserve them. 'Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail
me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.' (Psalm 17:8,9)

* revival to keep spreading through the Orthodox Church, and that
Christian unity will be a real and lasting fruit of this

* God to intervene in the political situation in Eritrea by:
working through European influences; delivering judgment and
removing evil forces (Psalm 17:10-14); delivering grace and
revealing his salvation to those in authority (Galatians 1:23).

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World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty
Prayer List <[email protected]>

The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.