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Eritrea: thought-provoking questions

By September 7, 2015

Eritrea_flagEritrea (MNN) — An op-ed piece came out recently asking, “Is Eritrea the ‘North Korea’ of Africa?”

It’s a thought-provoking question. Eritrea is a small nation in the Horn of Africa, with less than 6 million people, blamed for being one of the world’s biggest providers of refugees. The question is: Why are Eritreans fleeing?

It could be due to the struggling economy. It could be because President Isaias Afewerki keeps Eritrea on a permanent war-footing to guard against the potential of Ethiopia trying to re-conquer Eritrea. It could be fear. It could be all of the above.

There are similarities between the reclusive nations, but is it an accurate comparison? Todd Nettleton, spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, doesn’t think so. However, the point might not be accuracy, but context. “Most people in America have no clue where Eritrea is. They couldn’t find it on a map, and they don’t know anything about it. They do, however, know at least a little bit about North Korea and about how closed it is. So, if you say, ‘It’s like North Korea,’ it gives people a frame of reference to say, ‘Wow! It must really be bad for Christians.’”

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

The United Nations released data that supports what Nettleton is saying. The UN Human Rights Council claims that Eritrean authorities may have committed crimes against humanity. Neighbors and family members are often persuaded to inform on each other; sexual slavery and enforced labor are commonplace; and “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government.”

If that’s what it’s like for the “average” citizen, what is it like for religious minorities? Persecution watchdog groups like the Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, and Amnesty International say it’s an untenable situation for Christians. Since they are considered a threat to the state, they are treated like criminals. Add to that a growing sympathy toward Islamic extremism, and things get really rough.

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

(Photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

Christians face dreadful conditions in prison: sometimes prison cells are shipping containers in the desert.   Christians face physical torture, hard labor, emotional torture, insufficient food, insufficient hygiene, and insufficient medical care. At least 22 Christians have died while being detained under these conditions.

Any time stories like this get published, strong opposition is expressed, often with accusations of inaccuracy and outright lying. Nettleton responds that in his experience, dissent comes from someone connected to the Eritrean government, someone who is obstructing the results from things like the UN fact-finding missions, or someone who is willfully ignoring what’s going on.

“Anything that you hear or read that says. ‘No, Eritrea is a free nation. Christians are free and can do whatever they want,’ that is factually untrue, and really, laughable, when you understand the situation on the ground: Christians, even at weddings, will be rounded up and arrested; Christians [are] literally disappearing–no charges, no trial.”

Nettleton says the People of the Cross in Eritrea haven’t given up hope. “They understand that this is not an easy place to follow Christ, and yet they are willingly following Christ, continuing to minister, continuing to reach out.”

During his last visit to Eritrea, Nettleton met with the remnant Church–some of whom have been arrested and jailed since he was there. Moved by their sacrifice and commitment to the Gospel, he asked, ‘What can we do to help?’ Their first request was, ‘Pray for us.’”

Praise God for those Eritrean Christians who have managed to escape and share their stories with the West! Pray that their stories will inspire Christians to pray for Eritrea. Ask God to further the Gospel in this very young, African nation.

16 Comments

  • Michael says:

    Please stop doing regime change.
    There is nearly 100 million people in Ethiopia next door that really do need your help. They need family planning, Education services, Silviculture, Hydrological studies so they do not destroy their aquifers….
    Eritrea will sort itself out if you do not abuse them.

  • Alene says:

    may God visit Eritiran Christians and the land

  • I know that Catholic and Orthodox Christians are not persecuted in Eritrea. Can you tell me which denominations are under attack?

    Thank you

  • Sam says:

    President Isaias afwerki and his ruling party are responsible for dire situation in eritrea. 1 out 6 of its people forced to live out side of eritrea. Every young Eritreans wants leave eritrea since there is no hope . The government denies all these as flat lies as propaganda by ethiopia. The government can no longer hide the problem. Eritrea’s president is.expected to be formally charged by ICC for his crime against himanity.Ertrea is a failed state. If the internation community didn’t arrest eritrea’s president , eritrea will be another somalia.

  • Muller says:

    Stop it, just mind your business. You were not there when they alone against the world.

  • Habesha says:

    Threat from Ethiopia is a shaby cover up from the selfish man in power-Eseyas Afeworke. Ethiopia has already defeated the Eritrean army and if Ethiopia wants, it can remove his government in a matter of days because the Eritrean army is in disarray. Eseyas is using Ethiopia’s threat as an excuse to keep every Eritrean under his camp essentially as slaves with absolutely no individual right or lifestyle whatsoever.

    Erireans today are faced with two options-permanent slavery or flee their country and hope to survive the shoot-to-kill policy of the one-man regime. Both are really bad.

  • viva isaias says:

    USA is the source of all evil in the world.
    stop your propaganda about Eritrea. pray for yourself and your country.

    you all are evils

  • Biniam T says:

    If some would say USA is a country that black people are persecuted by the government police, even teenagers get shot by the police in the streets, The white majority use to have white hoods who hang and burn black folk…… etc The narrative is much closer to the truth than the fiction you try to describe Eritrea.
    Get your facts right! no one knows better about Eritrea than the Eritreans. So please stop talking about a country you have no clue about. I even wonder if you can find Eritrea on the map

  • Merhawie says:

    The legitimacy and credibility of US State Department reports has been called into serious question as being biased based on political needs (see TPP reports). Eritrea has always been seen in negatively in spite of it being one of the oldest homes of both Christianity and Islam. Eritrean Christians live in peace with their Muslim neighbors and have continued to do so by limiting foreign influences.
    *note: Eritrea is far from a failed state – actual statistics & references concur.

  • Daniel says:

    I, as an Eritrean Christian, believe that we will be in a better state if you (Nettleton, Kramer & likes), pray for yourselves.

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