18 September 2019
For the full reports please follow the links.
No 7 on the Open Doors World Watch List
An Eritrean pastor, now resettled in Australia, has described how Christians are tortured, starved and forced into hard labour in Eritrea’s notorious jails, and how his faith sustained him during long years of cruel incarceration.
“Gabriel” was first imprisoned in 1998 when he was rounded up with his church congregation and detained for a month. His next jail term was supposed to last six months but went on for three agonising years, because he was a pastor.
He told Barnabas prisoners were given only small amounts of food every 18 hours, yet they were all forced to do back-breaking manual work collecting stones for building materials. “Sometimes you break the stones with a heavy hammer. You hear a sound here, in your back, because everyone has malnutrition,” he said. The guards discriminated against Christian believers, refusing them medical treatment if they fell sick.
Like thousands of other Christian prisoners in Eritrea, Gabriel was held in a metal shipping container by authorities. He described the stress of two weeks he was locked in a container by prison authorities, in solitary confinement, with baking hot temperatures during the day and freezing cold at night. He begged the guards to allow him some painkillers but they refused. Cont/…
Following news that Eritrean church-run health centres were shut down earlier in the year, the government has now seized seven secondary schools. These schools were all run by religious organisations: Catholics, other Christian denominations and Muslims.
An order to hand over the schools was given on Tuesday 3 September. The Eritrean government say that the closures are in line with regulations that were introduced in 1995, which impose a limit on the activities of religious institutions. These regulations have seldom been enforced, and it is widely believed that the closures are actually a retaliation to the church’s criticism of President Isaias Afwerki. Following the peace deal with Ethiopia, Catholic bishops in Eritrea made a public call for government reform in a 30-page letter.
The schools that have been shut down are attended largely by students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and several of the schools were founded more than 70 years ago. Cont/…
A young Christian woman has told Barnabas Fund of the “harsh reality of oppression” towards Christians in Eritrea and how, as a child, she and her Bible-club classmates, some as young as five, were seized from a church by police, put in the back of a truck and driven off.
Sophia, now a university student in Australia, describes herself as “a witness to the constant threat that Christian believers face in Eritrea”. She described for us, in vivid detail, how some believers are denied the basic right to worship freely in the north-east African nation and can be seized by police at any moment. Cont/…
“We will not negotiate our faith and will continue following Jesus.”
The bold words of six Christian government employees in Eritrea came on August 16 when officials pressured them to recant. The employees were taken to what is described as an informal court inside a military command center in the capital city of Asmara where a judge instructed them to renounce their faith.
On hearing their response, reportedly the judge angrily told the believers to “leave while he considers next steps,” according to a source who remains anonymous for security reasons.
The incident is part of an intensifying crackdown on Christians in the East African country. Since the end of June, 150 Christians have been arrested in Asmara and Keren, Eritrea’s second-largest city approximately 56 miles northwest of Asmara. Cont/…
Headlines from other countries
As Asia Bibi sits free at last in a secret location in Canada, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after a false blasphemy charge thinks of those left behind still facing the same ordeal.
Nearly four months after the 54-year-old finally left Pakistan following a miscarriage of justice that caused worldwide outcry, she has the opportunity to rebuild a new life for her and her daughters.
Yet while she is enthusiastically grateful for the international efforts to free her, she says the world should know that Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws have left many others still behind bars.
In her first ever newspaper interview, she told The Sunday Telegraph she had at times fallen into despair after being sentenced to death in a case condemned around the world. Cont/…
Many of you have been faithfully praying for Leah Sharibu since she was taken by Boko Haram in February 2018. Thank you. Praise God, on 31 August the Nigeria Government confirmed that she was still alive. It is wonderful to have clarity on this point, but let’s keep praying.
On Saturday, a government spokesperson gave a statement saying that Leah was alive, and confirmed President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to her safe return. Garba Shehu, from the government’s media and publicity team, relayed assurances from their security agencies and said that ‘lines of communication remain open with the kidnappers, ISWAP, to secure the release of Leah Sharibu’. Cont/…
Fatemeh Bakhteri presented herself at Tehran’s Evin Prison today to begin her one-year jail sentence.
Fatemeh, who is known as Ilar, was informed in May that her appeal against her sentence, for “propaganda against the regime”, had failed.
Last month, Article18 reported that for Ilar the prospect of a jail sentence was not as frightening as the two-year ban she has been given from all social activities following her release – meaning she will be unable to attend any group meeting of more than two people, effectively cutting her off from gathering with other Christians. Cont/…