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Patriarch Abuna Antonios - Photo: YouTube / Tv Sened Eritra
Photo: YouTube / Tv Sened Eritra

While the Eritrean government officially recognizes four religious groups, even members of those groups remain under heavy oppression. In 2005, the government forcibly removed the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abuna Antonios, replacing him with a government-appointed lay administrator (read more). The Patriarch has remained under house arrest ever since, stripped of all administrative duties.

Earlier this year, the 90-year-old church leader secretly released a video objecting to the leadership of the administrator, Yoftahe Dimetros, and decrying the care he was receiving. He has been living in the servants' quarters of a residence occupied by a pro-government bishop.

In an unprecedented act, the orthodox church has moved to officially excommunicate Patriarch Antonios for heresy. According to a letter signed by five of the six bishops, his recent activities -- apparently in reference to the video -- demonstrated that "his repentance was not genuine." The letter announces that the elderly church leader may live out the rest of his life in a church-owned building. This excommunication is seen as a way of silencing any further dissent and thus strengthening government control of the church.

Intercede for Eritrea's true Christ-followers, especially those being confronted with ongoing opposition from the country's leaders -- whether they be political or of a religious affiliation. May these Christians be free to practise their faith without the threat of danger or inhumane treatment. Also prayerfully uphold all who are presently suffering in prison for their faith, asking God to grant them protection and strength as they await their hopeful release.

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