Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia are felt in the church.

By July 14, 2005

Eritrea (MNN)–Tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia have remained high.

Open Doors’ Carl Moeller says this has had an impact on believers. “Border conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to mount. The government of Eritrea continues to use the pretense of instability as a means of keeping the population without basic freedoms including religious freedoms.”

As a result, life feels like that of a state at war. Religious freedoms have been fiercely curbed, although many incidents are difficult to substantiate through an effective media blackout.

But, as reports of persecution trickle out, Moeller says, the strength of the church is building. “This is one of the great paradoxes of the church. Throughout history, where the church has been most severely persecuted, the church grows the most.”

There are still 16 full-time pastors and nearly 900 Eritrean Christians who are known to be held in prisons, military confinement camps and shipping containers for meeting secretly for prayer and worship outside government-approved churches, according to Compass Direct.

So far, none of the prisoners have been charged in court or brought to trial by government authorities. Since May 2002, the government has refused to legalize religious groups outside the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Muslim faiths.

Moeller says, “That’s why some of our co-workers and national relationships that we have worldwide say persecution is good in one sense. In that the church comes to terms with what it really needs to believe and really needs to trust God for.”

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