Eritrea (MNN) — The conclusion of the 20th United Nations session on Friday meant a historic victory for human rights in Eritrea. The U.N. Human Rights Council officially adopted a resolution on Eritrea and approved a mandate for a Special Rapporteur to report on the rights situation, according to ASSIST News Service.
This is the first resolution the HRC has adopted on Eritrea despite a muddy past of religious and human rights violations. This resolution may finally be placing Eritrea on the international radar, says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.
"It is a small country. It is not an economic power-house by any stretch. So the world has essentially turned a blind eye and not paid attention to the human rights abuses that have gone on in Eritrea," says Nettleton.
VOM, on the other hand, has paid very close attention to the violations in Eritrea–and with good reason. In 2002, the Eritrean government called church leaders together to tell them their churches would no longer be permitted to meet. A few larger organizations such as the Catholic church, Orthodox Church, and Islamic mosques were still permitted to meet, but smaller groups of believers were forbidden to gather.
Since then, says Nettleton, "Thousands of Eritrean Christians have been arrested. They've been put into the jail system or the military prison system. Some of them have been held in shipping containers literally without running water, without a bathroom–just locked in a shipping container."
Christians are essentially arrested just for being Christ-followers.
"Not a single Christian has been formally charged with any crime," Nettleton explains. "Not a single Christian has been put on trial, has been allowed to have an attorney. None of that. They simply have disappeared into the prison system."
Some have been released months or years later. Others are never heard from again.
Such severe treatment has placed Eritrea at #11 on the Open Doors World Watch List for nations actively persecuting believers. Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Team Leader for Africa and the Middle East, Khataza Gondwe, calls Eritrea's human rights crimes "among the most severe and under-reported in the world."
This new HRC resolution, however, could help change Eritrea's oppressive tune. It has already drawn extra attention since this is the first time that African countries (Somalia, Nigeria and Djibouti) have submitted a resolution on anther African state.
During the last decade of extreme persecution, the Gospel has been moving forward in Eritrea. Believers have not stopped sharing the Good News. But Nettleton points out, "It is coming at a terrible price." Perhaps this resolution will lessen the cost.
Pray that this resolution would be successful and that it would help create instill a miraculous heart change in the hearts of Eritrean government officials. Continue to pray in the meantime for the thousands of believers who remain in chains for their faith.
You can encourage believers imprisoned in Eritrea with letters. Click here to write.