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No school to go back to: Church-run schools seized in Eritrea

10 September 2019

Following news that Eritrean church-run health centres were shut down earlier in the year, the government has now seized seven secondary schools. These schools were all run by religious organisations: Catholics, other Christian denominations and Muslims.

An order to hand over the schools was given on Tuesday 3 September. The Eritrean government say that the closures are in line with regulations that were introduced in 1995, which impose a limit on the activities of religious institutions. These regulations have seldom been enforced, and it is widely believed that the closures are actually a retaliation to the church’s criticism of President Isaias Afwerki. Following the peace deal with Ethiopia, Catholic bishops in Eritrea made a public call for government reform in a 30-page letter.

The schools that have been shut down are attended largely by students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and several of the schools were founded more than 70 years ago.

There has been growing persecution of Christians in the country. As well as the seizing and shutting down of church-run health centres in June, over 150 Christians have been arrested for being members of churches belonging to unregistered (and thus illegal) denominations.

Police regularly raid the homes of Christians from unregistered denominations. When Christians are arrested, they are often told to renounce their faith as a condition of their release. Hundreds of members of unregistered churches are still in prison, with some having been held captive for more than a decade.

Please pray

  • That God would grant His peace to students and teachers in the midst of the storm
  • For students, facing surveillance and severe pressure to give in to demands regarding religious practices
  • For courage and wisdom for parents as they help their children navigate this situation.