Eritrea #9 World Watch List

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For many Christians in Eritrea, the threat of arrest and imprisonment is a daily reality. Since January, at least 120 Christians have been arrested in a renewed crackdown by the government. An estimated 1500 Christians are imprisoned in metal shipping containers and military prison camps across the country.

Eritrean believer Yohannes spent a year in one of these prisons after being arrested at Christian wedding he was attending. Here is his story in his own words…

“We were just entertained with our dinner when suddenly some policemen came to the wedding tent. I started asking them, what was the problem? There was no preaching at that time, there was no Christian music, it was only ceremonial things.

“They told me that they were being told to bring us to prison. I was taken from the wedding ceremony to prison. And I was jailed for more than one year.

“In the prison they used to torture Christians. They tie you in a helicopter position. They make you lie with your face down, then they tie both of your legs with your hands upwards. And they used to paint your face with water mixed with sugar, so that the flies can come and torture you sometimes. This kind of torture is really painful. Some of the Christians become disabled because of this torture.

“In prison, we don’t have the Bible. Some people can secretly help you to get a Bible, but you have to read it in a secret way. If you’re found reading the Bible, you’ll be taken to a solitary place, or to a very small cell where you can’t lie down, you have to stay standing the whole time. And sometimes if they find a Bible, they burn it in front of you.

“At times, they just mix you up with other prisoners, and that is an opportunity to preach the gospel. During this bad time for them, they are very eager and hungry to share the love of Christ. And I saw many, many souls accepting Jesus Christ.

“In my country, as a Christian, going to prison is not a strange thing, it’s a daily threat. So, it’s not a question of if I am going to jail or not, but when I am going. And when the day came, I was not surprised. I was ready for that.

“The problem was with my family, more than with what was happening to me. They had to come to the prison twice a day in order to feed me. And in addition to that, I had a baby while I was in prison, but I was not able to hold my baby, so it was really terrible.

“When I was going through this experience of being in prison, I was always considering that God is on my side. And I was always praying so that He can give me favour in front of those who tormented me, and I asked God, ‘Forgive them.’ I don’t have any bitterness or hatred towards these people.

“As to me, the hope for Eritrea is Jesus. I believe that so many people from this small nation will be missionaries to reach out to these Arab nations surrounding us.

“Sometimes you feel that you are totally neglected, totally forgotten. But I believe the body of Christ is praying for Eritrea for the freedom of religion in our country. And I want to say thank you to the Christian community all over the world.”

Eritrea slumA woman named Wehazit Berhane Debesai is the 25th known person to die for Christ in the wretched prisons of Eritrea, where several thousand people are behind bars because of their faith. But the phrase “behind bars” is a misnomer. At the Me’eter Prison in the Eritrean desert, inmates, mostly Christians, are held in large metal storage containers that become ovens by day and freezers by night where dehydrated victims drink their own sweat and urine to stay alive.

The only hope for satisfaction is to change the government. There have been no elections since the country achieved independence May 24, 1991. The nation has a requirement of compulsory military service for 18 months for every citizen. Currently, it is very difficult to arrange discharge from military service, and desertion is a major crime. Prisoners accused of desertion from military duty receive no better treatment than Christians. The nation is independent, but independence has brought only a different tyranical government.


  • For the hundreds of Eritrean Christians who have been imprisoned for their faith
  • That the government would soften its stance on evangelical Christians and give them the freedom to worship Jesus without restrictions
  • That the rise of Islamic extremism will be stifled in 2015


By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at using material from

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Image: Eritrea Slum Source:
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