Release plans day of prayer and petition for Eritrea

Release International is rallying the church to get behind its day of prayer for persecuted Christians in Eritrea on 24 May, the African country’s National Day.

The charity, which supports the persecuted church worldwide, is also asking Christians to sign its petition calling on Eritrea to respect the rights of its Christian citizens.

"Imagine living as a Christian in Eritrea. Your church has been closed and its assets confiscated. Every church programme has been halted. You and others are forced to meet in secret. Your pastor has been arrested, imprisoned and has disappeared. His family has fled the country. This is the reality for many Christians in Eritrea.

“Please join our campaign to support them in prayer – and bring pressure to bear so Eritrea’s National Day becomes a day for change,” said Andy Dipper, head of Release International.

In Eritrea, the only official churches are the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran-affiliated Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Worship at any other church is strictly forbidden.

Release said more than 2,000 Christians had been detained without trial since 2002, while dozens of churches and Christian ministries have been forced to close. It also said torture was used to try and force believers to renounce their faith and that it was not unusual for Christians to be spied on or arrested by police.

“In most cases they have disappeared without trace inside Eritrea’s prison system. Relatives are often kept in the dark as to whether their loved ones are dead or alive,” the group said.

Release is among the many rights groups that have publicly condemned Eritrea’s policy of incarcerating Christians in metal shipping containers in the desert, without light or sanitation and where temperatures soar during the day and plummet at night.

It also said that in the last three months, two Christians had died in military jails where they were being held for their faith, including one man who died as a result of torture and diabetes. It is illegal for Christians in the military to meet together, worship or even read a Bible, and military personnel can be detained indefinitely if they refuse to renounce their faith.

“Please ask your friends and church members to sign the Release petition,” said Mr Dipper. “Please also pray for Christians in detention, and for the many refugees now living in Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. Pray also for change – that Eritrea will act on our petition and respect the rights of all religious groups.”

On the web:
The petition is available for download at