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Ghinda, Eritrea

On October 31st, security forces shot at protesters who had gathered in the capital of Asmara to express their concerns over the Eritrean government's latest plans for all schools of the country. In its longstanding strategy to transform all academic institutions into community or public schools, the government is now forbidding students from wearing any religious accessories or apparel, such as Christian crosses or Muslim headscarves. The schools were notified in September that these changes were to take place with immediate effect.

One of the Christian schools received a letter dated September 18th from the regional Minister of Education, ordering the school leadership "to close the school and report to the (regional administration) a list of all the students." The official responsible for the letter also cited a 1995 government declaration, stating that all social activities -- including those of the country's private schools, clinics and orphanages -- are to be government-controlled. Furthermore, the letter stated that religious organizations should be restricted to the spiritual well-being of its own members.

It has been 15 years since the government introduced a law prohibiting Christian practice outside of an approved religious community. The severity of persecution being experienced by evangelical believers in Eritrea is revealed in this previous report.

As the Eritrean government implements these new restrictions for all schools, pray that the imposed changes will not discourage the students' faith. May their representing families be granted wisdom so they can appropriately respond to this situation in a way that is reflective of the righteous, loving God whom they serve. We're also mindful to uphold any students or fellow citizens who may have suffered harm as a result of the recent shooting of protesters. May they not lose hope, but rather -- with the Lord's help, strength and enabling -- persevere with unwavering faith and a greater sense of commitment to the cause of Christ.