(MNN) — Eritrea's crackdown on Christians has claimed two more lives.
country (ranked 12th on the Open Doors World Watch List) is known
for its brutal hostility and indifference toward believers they arrest. Ministry partners of Open Doors have sent reports
indicating the conditions detainees endure are inhumane, i.e.- gross neglect in
shipping containers in the dessert and military detention camps, as well as
Open Doors USA CEO Carl Moeller says, "Two young women, 23
and 27 — Hiwet Tesfu and Zemame Mehari — were reported
to have died in one of these military camps." They had been in the ALLA military camp for two years and three months.
Their plight was largely ignored on the international stage,
as similar cases have been. "Both of
these women had apparently been in ill health," says Moeller. "They were repeatedly tortured.
They had been repeatedly denied medical treatment." They
were buried at the military camp.
women were arrested in April 2009 for attending a prayer meeting in Dekemhare, 15 kilometers from ALLA Military Camp southeast of Asmara. Both Open Doors and Compass Direct News
reports show that at the time of their
arrest, prayer and similar Christian meetings were being arranged by groups of
young believers in the military service.
However, the government maintains that it has no religious
prisoners in custody. Moeller dismisses
that claim as semantics. "They don't recognize these evangelical or Pentecostal
sects as ‘religious' institutions or organizations; therefore, when they arrest
them, it's for holding illegal activities or illegal meetings. So, when they're
held, they're not holding ‘religious' prisoners: they're holding ‘social' and
2002, the government has cracked down on all but the traditional Orthodox,
Catholic, or Lutheran churches and certain branches of Islam.
Mehari are the 17th and 18th Christians known to have
died while serving time for their faith in one of Eritrea's harsh detention
centres. They are the fourth and fifth Christian deaths confirmed in the ALLA
There are reports of thousands of believers in similar
conditions, and very few, if any, have actually been charged since their
arrest. Given the government reaction to
Christians, it might seem logical that this treatment produces a "chilling
effect" for Gospel workers. Yet, the
opposite seems to be true, says Moeller. "When they see Christians willing to
go to prison, willing to die, willing to be tortured for this religion, it
creates an undeniable thirst for understanding what that faith is about."
The great paradox, Moeller notes, is that "it is sometimes exactly those places
where the situation is the most desperate that we see the growth of the church
most dramatically. I believe it's because that in the midst of the
crucible of persecution, Christians are continuing to stand up."
Please continue to pray for Christians all over Eritrea who
are suffering dearly for their Christian beliefs. Pray for godly wisdom,
perseverance, and God's protection in their lives.
Pray that Christians across the
world would open up their hearts for these persecuted believers, continuing to
pray and advocate earnestly for them.