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Eritrean President
Isaias Afwerki

For the first time since May 2002 when evangelical Christianity was declared illegal in Eritrea, criminal charges have been laid against those who are not a part of the officially recognized churches.

In the past week, the Voice of the Martyrs has learned that authorities have begun raiding private homes, arresting families caught praying and reading the Bible together. According to Compass Direct, Kelete, a leader of the Rema Charismatic Church in the capital of Asmara, was having family devotions with his wife, six children, and father-in-law when police raided the home, arresting the entire family. The following evening, another leader named Habeteab was arrested with his wife and five children. Both families were transferred to the Adi Abeto prison outside Asmara. Habeteab has been charged with trying to start "a new religion."

On February 23, ten believers were meeting in a home in the Aba Shwale district of Asmara when they were arrested. All but the elderly lady hosting the meeting remain in prison. However, she was fined 500 Nakfa ($68 CDN), more than half a month's salary.

On February 25, the Persecution and Prayer Alert reported on the arrest of fifty-one evangelicals (click here for more details). Forty-six of these remain in prison, likely facing torture. Earlier this month, Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki warned that efforts to "distract from the unity of the Eritrean people and distort the true meaning of religion" by these unlawful religious groups would not be tolerated. In May 2002, the Eritrean government outlawed all religious groups other than Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Muslim. At least three hundred and seventy-three Protestant Christians are presently imprisoned for their faith.

Pray for strength and faithfulness for the many believers living in fear of arrest and torture. Pray for endurance for those facing torture for their faith. Pray that the Eritrean government will reverse its decision to outlaw most religious groups.

The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter for April 2004 will feature a comprehensive report on the plights of Eritrean Christians. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.

For more information on persecution facing Christians in Eritrea, click here.

Country Information


6,147,398 (July 2021 est.)

Ethnicity (%)
Tigrinya (50), Tigre (30), Saho (4), Afar (4) Kunama (4), Bilen (3), other (5)

Religion (%)
Islam (47.4), Christianity (48.8), other (3.8)

President Isaias Afworki (1993)

Government type
Presidential republic

Legal system
Mixed legal system of civil, customary, and Islamic religious law

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Operation World

Pray for Eritrea

Ask the Lord to provide imprisoned Eritrean believers a means of escape and a place of safe refuge. Pray for Him to also work deeply in the hearts of the country's governing officials so they will grant His people the freedom to worship Him and glorify His matchless name. Mindful of their own human frailties, may these political leaders realize the need to make Jesus their own personal Saviour and Lord by accepting His gift of eternal salvation.


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Eritrea News

  • Christians Arrested During Prayer Meeting
    Several rusty shipping containers - Photo: VOMC
    Prison officials continue to hold detainees in cramped, unsanitary shipping containers.
    Photo: VOMC

    In mid-March, 29 evangelical Christians were arrested when Eritrean security forces raided a home prayer meeting in Asmara. According to reports, 17 women and 12 men were taken to the Mai Serwa prison

  • Fifteen Christians Rearrested
    Video: Kidane Gebremeskel Gedion
    Click to view video.

    Eritrean authorities recently arrested 15 Christians during a series of raids on their houses in the capital city of Asmara. All 15 believers had been previously imprisoned for their faith – some for up to 16 years.

  • Three Elderly Pastors Arrested
    Georgio Gebreab and Samuel Okbamichael - Photos: Church in Chains
    Georgio Gebreab and Samuel Okbamichael
    Photos: Church in Chains

    Three semi-retired pastors in the Eritrean capital of Asmara were arrested towards the latter part of July. Since they were all over 70 years old, and only occasionally conducted funeral or wedding services, it is unclear why these elde