Eritrean Christians Gather for Historic Prayer Event in Nairobi

Eritrean Christians from all over the world are gathering in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday 13 May 2007 to participate in a National Day of Prayer for their country.

The event is the first of its kind and has been organised by the newly inaugurated Eritrean Evangelical Fellowship in Africa and the Middle East, a Nairobi-based organisation created in December 2006 to empower the church in the region and to advocate for those suffering persecution both inside and outside Eritrea.

Participants will include leaders and ordinary Christians from the Eritrean Christian diaspora.

"We are expecting hundreds of people to come together, some from within Kenya and others from abroad," the organisation's General Secretary told Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Many of those who will be attending the Kenya prayer gathering have fled Eritrea to escape the severe persecution that has continued unabated since 2002, when the government decreed the closure of all churches not belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic or Lutheran denominations, and began to harass and indefinitely detain Christians in increasing numbers.

Some 2000 Christians are currently imprisoned without trial or charge, CSW has reported. Among them is ordained Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, who was unlawfully removed from office in January 2006 and remains under stringent house arrest. A new Patriarch is due to be consecrated on 27 to 28 May in violation of the church's constitution.

The EEF-AME General Secretary told CSW: "First and foremost, we hope that as a result of the National Day of Prayer the government will begin to see Christians not as the enemy, but as friends who are loyal to the nation.

"We also hope things will change; that prisoners will be set free, that the increasing flow of refugees fleeing the country stops and that the direction is reversed, with people returning home to work together for a blessed and prosperous Eritrea".

He concluded with an appeal to Christians around the world to pray for Eritrea on the day of the event.

The Kenya prayer gathering will be followed by a prayer event in London jointly organised by CSW and the Eritrean human rights NGO, Release-Eritrea-UK, which will take place on 26 May at the Salvation Army's Regent Hall in Oxford Street.

Tina Lambert, CSW Advocacy Director said: "It is a privilege to be able to stand in prayer with Eritrean Christians during this season of intense persecution. Their commitment to both their faith and their country should inspire us all."