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THE CHURCH IN ERITREA: HUNTED LIKE ANIMALS BUT STILL GROWING!
The name Eritrea is derived from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea. It encompasses both the Red Sea lowlands and the northern end of the Ethiopian Highlands. The country’s history is deep, with much influence, and often control, from neighbouring Ethiopia. It adopted Christianity very early and that was followed by Islam which slowly won over large sections of the population. The Turks, then the Italians and then the British took control over the centuries, leading up to independence again in 1993.
Eritrea is a statistical and social nightmare. It ranks last in the world for electricity consumption, tourism, internet use, television ownership and teacher student ratios. It is the world’s fifth poorest country and looks likely to stay that way for a long time. Since independence in 1993 it has been ruled by Isaias Afwerki, a paranoid, brutal warlord who is both a Marxist and a Muslim. To stay in power he has the world’s second highest ratio of soldiers to citizens, crushing all and any who get in his path especially evangelical Christians whom he sees as the greatest threat to his control. Meanwhile the rest of the country lives just above starvation on foreign aid. Satan has this country in his hand.
First the good news: Most the 48% percent of the population that is Christian are from the ancient Eritrean Orthodox denomination and there is a huge spiritual awakening happening among them. Severe persecution is bringing tens of thousands of new believers into the Kingdom of God from this ancient dormant faith. The number of evangelicals is now well over 100,000, up from just a few thousand in 1960, and now growing very strongly at 5% a year. Towns in the mountains closer to Ethiopia have many believers as that is the natural base of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
Now the bad news: At any time one in thirty believers is in a filthy prison being tortured for their faith. Many will die or come out crippled from this torture. One young woman was kept in a shipping container for two years. Eritrea is up there with North Korea for atrocities committed against Christians. In fact it is called the North Korea of Africa. Yet new leaders keep taking the place of those detained, especially among young men who see the truth and become fearless. A viral house church network is booming throughout the country. Yet sadly most of the Muslims are yet to hear the Gospel as they live down on the coastal regions. Pray for the Beja and Nara peoples on the north coast, some of the hardest to reach for Jesus on the planet
Pray for the towns near Ethiopia that they can be a refuge for the persecuted
Pray for the untouched Muslim half of the population.
Pray for those being tortured. Imagine if we were in their shoes
Pray for the destruction of powerful demonic strongholds
Pray for those that flee to Ethiopia, that they would hear the Good News
Pray for a change of government
Pray for all those leaders who face terrible persecution
Pray for a breakthrough, only the power of the Holy Spirit can set this country free