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Church in Asmara where Rev. Nelson Fernandez had pastored -- Photo: World Watch Monitor
In October 2005, Rev. Nelson Fernandez,
who pastored a church in Asmara
(pictured), was ordered to leave the
country for addressing the government's
ill-treatment of Christians.
Photo: World Watch Monitor

A woman by the name of Fikadu Debesay, who was arrested with her husband during raids targeting Christians, passed away recently while in incarceration. The mother of three reportedly died in Metkel Abiet, a desert camp located within the Northern Red Sea Region, and was buried on August 10th in Mendefera. While the cause of her death is still unknown, the camp where she was detained is situated in an area known for its oppressive heat and aridity.

A campaign of house-to-house raids targeting members of non-sanctioned churches was initiated in several towns since May of this year. Fikadu was detained when mass arrests took place in the town of Adi Quala, as part of an ongoing crackdown on Christianity over the years. It all began in May 2002 when the Eritrean government effectively outlawed religious practises not affiliated with Orthodox Christian denominations or Sunni Islam.

Arrests now appear to be occurring monthly. During the first week of August, 23 more Christians were rounded up in the capital city of Asmara. In July, 16 female national service conscripts in their late teens were taken from their place of assignment in Adi Halo, a village about 32 kilometres from Asmara, and detained in Metkel Abiet camp. Other Christians and family members who made attempts to visit them were also imprisoned.

Since May, the number of Christians known to have been detained in desert camps and military facilities has now risen to 210. Most were detained following raids on their homes, while a few were arrested at prayer meetings. Like Fikadu, several are parents. According to local sources, over 50 children are currently without one or both parents as a result of these raids. A previous report on the May arrests is available here.

Ask our Heavenly Father to comfort Fikadu's husband and children with His reassuring presence and the fact that they will see her again in heaven. On behalf of the hundreds of other imprisoned believers, please pray that they will receive protection and strength while awaiting safe release -- in hopes of being reunited with their families soon. In the meantime, intercede for the children who've been left to fend for themselves as a result of their parents' detainment. Ask the Lord to not only provide all that is required to safely sustain them but to also convict the Eritrean authorities responsible for the difficulties now facing these many innocent lives. May the country's governing officials experience conviction for their crimes against humanity, sincere repentance, and God's transformative love.

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

  • More Church Leaders Detained
    Church building
    A church in Eritrea

    In 2002, the government of Eritrea outlawed every religion except for Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. Since then, the oppression against other religious groups has been severe. Even those within the approved faith groups have been at risk of op

  • Twenty Years of Oppression
    Eritrean Bible
    Photo: VOMC

    In May 2002, the Eritrean government closed all unregistered churches and established legislation outlawing any religious community except for Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. Government oppression and control was strongly instituted, even within these

  • 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