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A man reading the Psalms in the Eritrean hills
A man reading the Psalms in the Eritrean hills.
Photo: Flickr / Joseph Bautista (cc):

In a surprising move, 35 prisoners of faith were released on bail from the Mai-Sirwa prison on July 17th and 18th, after serving more than four years. The 11 women and 24 men, all members of unregistered Christian churches, were mostly young people not in leadership positions. Although all of them had signed a statement four and a half years ago, promising to no longer attend meetings at unregistered churches, officials continued to hold them in detention without cause.

It is unknown why they were released at this point. Greg Musselman, Minister at Large for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, speculates that it could have something to do with Eritrea's move to rebuild its relationship with Ethiopia. "Regardless of the motivation, it's a good thing," he explains. "We pray that many more followers of Jesus will soon be released from prison and reunited with their families."

Hundreds of Christians remain imprisoned in Eritrea for their faith; some for as long as 20 years. Prison conditions in Eritrea are often horrendous, leading to permanent disability or death for those being held. For more information, visit the Eritrea Country Report.

Praise God for the release of these 35 prisoners! May they have the strength to continue standing firm in their faith, despite governmental opposition. Remember the many other believers who are still suffering in Eritrean prisons, praying that they will know the presence of God in a tangible way -- experiencing true freedom in Christ deep within their hearts -- while awaiting release from imprisonment.

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