Eritrea: Church leaders languishing behind the bars since 12 years

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Christians in Eritrea

A church leader in Eritrea languishes behind the bars since 12 years. In 2004, the Eritrean government had forbidden worship outside of Islam, Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic Church. This decree drove all other churches to underground while hundreds of Christians were hooked for following other denominations.

One such church leader, Haile Naigzhi, who was pastor of Eritrea’s Full Gospel Church, was hooked on May 23, 2004. After arrest he was taken to a Police Station in Asmara, later to Wongel Mermera; which is a dungeon-like prison. He along with at least five other church leaders, are pining away in this dungeon-like prison. The hope for their release is very little.

Moreover, after five years of Haile Naigzhi’ imprisonment, the Eritrean state decided to hook his wife and children also. However, his wife was forewarned and fled along with her children and settled in another country. “We feel safer here. We are able to freely serve God. I am also happy because the children are in a good school. It is difficult, but we hold on to Jesus,” says Naigzhi’s wife. “I miss my husband dearly. It is very lonely for me,” she continued. His 17-year-old son, who last saw his father when he was 5, confesses to also feeling homesick, “I miss home, I miss my friends, and I miss our house,” he said.

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Naigzhi’s 19-year-old daughter says, “Ever since we left our country, things have dramatically changed in a way we didn’t know they would. I knew the moment we left that we would have an uphill battle until we are able one day to go back home again. And it was all true.”

“We learnt that having a ‘bed-of-roses’ kind of life on earth is not actually God’s number one plan for us, but that everything we face in this world shapes our spirits into the beautiful spirit the Lord wishes to see in us. I am happy in every way and most especially to be the daughter of the Most High God. I am also happy to be the daughter of a prisoner for Christ. He is the best dad ever! God will make things perfect one day, and I trust Him with all my heart. He is faithful to keep His word.”

Eritrea ranks No. 3 on Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian. In the face of persecution, the exact number of Christians in the incarceration centers in Eritrea is not known. Even though there seems to have been a let-up in arrests, situation remains tense for the Eritrean Christians. Thousands of Christians are looking to fleeing the country; the bulk aims for resettlement in Europe; as a result countless die in an attempted journey to Europe.