Eritrea (MNN/ODM) — Even Eritrea's
military is not exempt from the sweeps done for Christians.
Jerry Dykstra with
Open Doors tells us
what happened last Saturday. "17
young men were gathered for prayer in southern Eritrea. They were apparently
soldiers, and they had gathered in a prayer meeting. They were arrested, thrown
in prison and moved to another Eritrean detention center."
Authorities caught up to the group
in the town of Segenaite. The men serving their compulsory national military
service belonged to various churches.
These arrests bring to 28 the
reported number of Christians arrested for their faith since the beginning of
March. The government is
sending a message to believers: "They're
systematically trying to force out the
members of the church."
Open Doors sources say approximately
2,200 Christians remain in prison for their refusal to stop practicing their
faith outside of the government-sanctioned religious groups.
Some were released, many of them for
health reasons. Others were also
released on very strict bail conditions. Additionally, many other Christians
have been released only to be sent back to the military in anticipation of a
renewed war with neighboring Ethiopia. At least 12 Christians have died while
being incarcerated in Eritrean prison camps.
However, the effort to stop
evangelism often backfires. Dykstra says believers don't recant their faith even while they're behind bars. Their message: "Even in the midst of suffering and
imprisonment, the Gospel goes out."
Dykstra urges prayer for the future
of the church in Eritrea. "Persecution, as is often the case is, brought greater unity to the
church of Eritrea."
Open Doors reports that Eritrea is ranked
No. 11 on this year's Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the
worst persecutors of Christians. There
is more information here.