|World Watch List Rank||6|
|World Watch List Score||87/100|
|Leader||President Isaias Afwerki|
|Population||5.1 million | 2.4 Christians|
|Main Religion||Islam 49%; Christian 49%|
|WWL Rank in 2019||7|
|Persecution Level||Extreme Persecution|
Known as the ‘North Korea of Africa’, Eritrea is an extremely volatile place for Christians. The government makes daily life difficult. Homes are raided, Bibles confiscated and Christians are forced to disappear. In Islamic regions of Eritrea, converts face persecution from their family members. Believers are imprisoned and tortured so they deny Christ. Despite this, the church continues to remain faithful in the face of persecution.
When Senet* was arrested for refusing to put the state before her faith in Jesus, she was put in a small cell with 55 other women.
"We were so tightly crammed in that we could not sit properly, let alone lie down to sleep. We were forced to work long hours without rest. My immediate commander was especially cruel.
"But in a dream one night I saw myself fighting with and defeating a very strong man. In the dream I was surprised by my strength and wondered how I had managed to defeat him."
The so-called 'People's Front for Democracy and Justice' exerts absolute control over its citizens, including their religious life. All religious groups must be registered. Christians are considered a threat to the state; their houses have been attacked, and they have been tortured, beaten and imprisoned in horrific conditions. Some are detained in metal shipping containers in scorching temperatures.
The government enlists community members to spy on Christians. Although members of the Eritrean Coptic Church enjoy relative freedom, other denominations are seen as 'agents of the West'. The West was blamed for unrest in the nation after a failed coup in 2013, and this resulted in more intensive persecution of Christians.A growing source of persecution in Eritrea is Islamic extremism. Although the government's tough stance on religion can affect Muslims as well as Christians, radical Muslims appear to be gaining support and the government has sympathy for radical groups such as Rashaida and al-Shabaab - they have reportedly supplied al-Shabaab with weapons at times.
The strong man of persecution in Eritrea can seem impossible to defeat. And yet many faithful believers have been surprised by the strength God has given them. Senet was asked to recant her faith several times, but refused; as a result, she spent over six years in prison. But she says it was an honour to suffer for the name of Jesus: "May the Name of the Lord be glorified!"
Since the late 1990s, Open Doors has strengthened believers in Eritrea through strategic partnerships with the local church. Open Doors encourages Christians in the region through: