Tag Archives: World Watch List

Eritrea #9 World Watch List

Flag of Eritrea



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 Amazon.com using material from http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/stories/eritrea_130429.php

Image: Flag of Eritrea
Courtesy of Free-Country-Flags
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported


Image: Eritrea Slum Source: http://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/worldwatch/eritrea.php
Used by permission 



World Watch List #8 Pakistan


Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has spent the last 5 years on death row in Pakistan after being accused and convicted of blasphemy. Her problems began when she offered water to a fellow human being. Asia herself had drunk from the well, but later she was told that Christians were forbidden to use that well.  An argument arose among the women to whom she had offered a drink. They were all Muslim, and they began to make fun of Christians.

In self-defense Asia asked a simple question “Jesus died on the cross for us, what has Mohammed done for you?”

Her Muslim neighbors instantly challenged her comments as blasphemy. The women attacked her and drove her back home. Later, she was brutally beaten and raped. Two of her daughters were also later assaulted.

Due to the culture of Pakistan Christians are considered untouchable. Within the Muslim majority most believe that Christians should be humiliated and shamed. Every Christian who breaks even simple cultural traditions is subject to the charge of blasphemy. Many Christians have been imprisoned on the charge of blasphemy, but most are eventually released. Some have been exonerated, due to evidence that the original charge was made up. Asia Bibi is not the only Christian prisoner in Pakistan, but she is the only one sentenced to death.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi must obtain all her food in prison from family and friends. She must prepare it herself, because if Muslims handle her food she is at risk of being poisoned. The risk that any Muslim will feel free to shame or harm any Christian is rampant in the culture.

When natural disasters strike, such as earthquakes and floods, the Muslim majority receive help from the government to recover from the tragedy and to rebuild their homes. Christians are ignored Mr. Khurram Daud Gill, a social activist in Pakistan said, “We witness that Christian flood victims have been treated as untouchables by the government. The rescue, relief and then rehabilitation work was done unfairly. The district government did not provide adequate machines or cranes to lift the mud from the streets and heavy debris of ruined buildings. None of the high scale government officials visited the victims.


  • For Asia Bibi who remains in prison for alleged blasphemy after her appeal was turned down by the Pakistani High Court
  • For the growing number of Christian women and girls who are targets of killings and sexual assault
  • That the Taliban will be driven out of the country by government forces

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Flag of Pakistan
Courtesy of All-Flags-World


Image: Asia Bibi
Source: http://www.persecution.com
Used by permission

Could I Be Arrested for Being a Christian?

Open Doors USA creates an annual list of nations where it is dangerous to be a Christian. When they prepare the list, they take into account factors expressed in five spheres of life (and other factors which I will not address here). The five spheres are:

  1. 1.      Private life
  2. 2.      Family life
  3. 3.      Community life
  4. 4.      National life
  5. 5.      Church life

As I read about the way the World Watch List is prepared, I was motivated to think deeply about the way I live my faith. After all, whether I am persecuted or not, I live in those five spheres. People in those spheres of life view my actions and words. I had to ask myself, if I lived in a country where it was common to persecute Christians, would my behavior in all those spheres lead people to persecute me?

Our faith begins, of course, in our private life. Whether we come to the moment of decision in a church gathering or alone in a dark room, the decision happens inside before anything else matters. If nothing changes in my heart of hearts, then nothing changes. However, in my world, nobody is challenging my right to make that choice in my private life. I can sustain my private life, my personal time for prayer and Bible study, in any way that pleases me. I can create a tiny personal worship space if I wish. I can lay a Bible out on a table or light a candle or use a devotional book. My space belongs to me. It is very difficult for me to accept the idea that in North Korea, nobody is permitted to have a private life. Nobody in that country has ownership of private space or time. Finding any way to have private time or worship time is extremely challenging. So, I ask myself, if I lived in North Korea the way I live today, would anybody arrest me? Would the police come in and smash my private space and my belongings? Would they find any clue that I am a Christian?

We all live in families. There is probably no setting where it is more difficult to live our faith, because our families know all about us. We may put on a façade of righteousness when we go out in public, but the family knows. A spiteful, selfish attitude can’t be a secret from the sister with whom you share a room. Even a little child observes parents that live differently inside their home than they appear to be when they go to church. Our families push all our buttons. We may build relationships in the family, or we may destroy relationships. We may even build barriers around ourselves to prevent relationships. Within my family, is there anyone who would report me for being a Christian if the police wanted that information?

Even people on mountainsides or on sprawling ranches in the Great Plains have community connections. They buy groceries, borrow money, participate in food drives and so forth. When the community is devastated by some disaster, they either help or whine or run away. People in the community know if a person speaks truth or lies. They know if that person is light or darkness. If my community required people to live in districts defined by their religion, would anybody who found me in the atheist corner demand that I go back into the Christian district?

There may have been a time when there was land unclaimed by any nation, but no more. Google maps alone would put a stop to that. Everybody has a nationality. Some countries have religious liberty; some don’t. If I lived in a nation that required everyone to be a particular non-Christian religion, would I be arrested for failure to comply? Could the religious police discern from my attitude and behavior that I am a Christian? If I speak up in a country with complete religious freedom, will anyone be able to distinguish me from a secular thinker or a Buddhist?

And then there is my church life. Like my family, my church knows me well. Or do they? Does my participation give any clue that I am a member? If I fail to attend on Sunday does anyone even notice? Does my name appear anywhere in the list of contributors? Has anyone ever seen me work on a mission project? When my name shows up on a member list, do people scratch their heads? Will anyone know?

My life in Christ has numerous dimensions. This list of the spheres of life makes me ask: Do people see Christ when they see me? Or do they just see another mouthy do-gooder who wants her own way all the time?