For the third time this year, the government of Eritrea has made a mass arrest of Christians, this time rounding up more than 30 believers from their homes in the west-central cities of Agordet, Barentu, and Tesennei on the night of April 24. The nighttime raid follows the January arrest of 30 Christians at a child’s birthday party in Gejeret, a suburb of Eritrea’s capital Asmara, and the March detainment of three Christian families from Asmara at the country’s notorious Mai Serwa Prison.

According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, this years arrests are a reminder that little has changed for Christians in Eritrea in the last 22 years. 

“On May 22, 2002, Eritrean authorities ordered the closure of all non-Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran churches,” says Representative Foley. “Since then, Christians from banned churches  have been arrested and imprisoned without being formally charged or tried. Contact with family members or attorneys is impossible. Sentences are open-ended. That’s why Eritrea is rightfully called the ‘North Korea of Africa’ and is continually ranked as one of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.” 

Representative Foley says that the release of 13 Christians last August after 10 years in prison led some to hope that the Eritrean government might be beginning to change its policy.  

There was a similar hope for change after the release of 35 Christians in 2018, but in both cases the prisoner releases can be attributed to the Lord stirring up pressure from Christians worldwide through letter-writing campaigns conducted by Voice of the Martyrs that called attention to the plight of the prisoners, says Representative Foley. She says that is why it is important for Christians around the world to respond to this years arrests of Christians in Eritrea the same way. 

We must respond to this latest surge of persecution with a new surge of letter writing, says Representative Foley. 

Representative Foley says that her organization is working with its contacts in the region to gather the names and prison addresses of the latest detainees. But she urges Christians to set aside time this week to write letters of encouragement to the Eritrean prisoners whose names and prison addresses are already known and posted on the Voice of the Martyrs Korea website at 

“There are five Eritrean Christians currently listed on our website to whom letters can be sent right away: Mussie Ezaz, a prisoner for Christ since 2007; Kidane Weldou, a prisoner for Christ since 2005; and Haile Nayzgi, Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel, and Meron Gebreselasie, all prisoners for Christ since 2004.” 

Representative Foley says that even in cases where prison officials refuse to deliver the letters to the prisoners, the letters still make a difference.  

When a surge of letters arrives for a particular prisoner, it shows the prison guards that the world is still watching,” says Representative Foley. “History shows that the Lord sometimes uses letter writing campaigns to keep the prisoners safe, or alive.” 

She calls the survival of the imprisoned Eritrean Christians a “daily miracle”. 

“Many of the Christians are locked in shipping containers in the middle of the desert,” says Representative Foley. “The shipping containers become super-heated during the day and frigid during the night. Although each shipping container is small, twenty to thirty prisoners are sometimes crammed into one container. There is only one bucket in the corner for human waste, and prisoners are only allowed outside twice per day.” 

Representative Foley reports that prisoners are regularly tortured. 

“Prisoners are tortured so brutally and for such a long time that they are released with permanent disabilities like paralysis,” Representative Foley explains. “Some die from torture wounds; others are casually executed.” 

(From file) Shipping containers in a desert in Eritrea. Prisoners like Pastor Haile Nayzgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel are often imprisoned in such containers for more than a decade.

She says despite this, the Eritrean church continues to prosper. 

“Every Eritrean Christian knows they can be released from prison by signing a document saying they’ll stop evangelizing and attending unregistered churches. However, many Eritrean Christians choose to remain faithful to Christ in prison,” board chair Foley explains. “But these faithful Christians have been in prison for more than fourteen years.” 

Voice of the Martyrs Korea administers a fund to provide ongoing support to families of Eritrean martyrs and Christian prisoners. Churches and individuals interested in making a donation to VOMK’s Eritrea Fund can do so at (select “Eritrea” from the donation option menu) or via electronic transfer to:  

국민은행 463501-01-243303 

예금주: ()순교자의소리 

Please include the phrase “Eritrea” on the transfer. 

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