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Eritrea: "The hope for Eritrea is Jesus"
29 April 2013
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.
"They used to torture Christians"
"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.
"As a Christian, going to prison is not a strange thing"
"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."
- For God's sustaining peace and presence for Christians imprisoned in Eritrea
- For God's comfort and provision for women whose husbands have been imprisoned for their faith, leaving them to bring up their families alone
- For God's strength for churches experiencing increased surveillance in the wake of the government's renewed crackdown on independent Christian groups.
Find out more about persecution in Eritrea.