Pray for: Eritrea–draught, famine, malnutrition, unrest, religious freedom, government corruption. Listen to podcast episodes at %message% for Voice of the Martyrs story.
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Population: 5,352,000

Rank: Central Africa: 20th; World: 116th

Languages: Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages
Major People Groups: Tigrinya 55%, Tigre 30%, Saho 4%, Kunama 2%, Rashaida 2%, Bilen 2%, other (Afar, Beni Amir, Nera) 5% (2010 est.)

Eritrea is #3 on Open Doors' World Watch List and among the poorest and most corrupt countries in Africa. There is no freedom of religion. Missionaries have been expelled or imprisoned, church property has been confiscated and group meetings driven underground. Please pray that the civil government will stabilize, create a constitutional republic and operate according to its principles. Please pray for the release of captive missionaries and church workers, the protection and provision for their families in the meantime, and that all forms of official persecution will be ended.

Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year war, but conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia and Djibouti and Yemen since 1998 have continued to spark wars and clashes. The UN brokered a cautious peace when the African Union failed to create a binding agreement between the parties.

During a war in 1998-2002, evangelists were forced into army service and thousands of soldiers became believers as the result of this and the influence of Christian radio. The church was preparing to openly receive and mentor them upon their release from service. However, in May of 2002, the government closed evangelical churches, forcing them underground into house (cell) churches. As the cell church continues to grow, government persecution has increased, and Christians are now being martyred. Many pastors have been imprisoned, and their families are persecuted. When young people flee the country, their parents are being imprisoned until they return. Eritrea is currently a country with no freedom of religion.

The border between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains very tense to this day. Eritrea has since expelled the peacekeepers due to lack of support from the UN in having the border ruling enforced.

Using the war as an excuse, Eritrea's government has devolved into one of the most controlling states in the world. No national elections have ever been held, the misleadingly named People's Front for Democracy and Justice is the only party allowed, dissidents disappear into jails and the country comes dead last in the Press Freedom Index. Obligatory military service has been extended to eight years for men and women, border guards shoot on sight at people trying to escape, and Eritreans outside the country have to pay taxes to visit. The country is desperately poor, with half the population subsisting on less than a dollar a day. Growth was crippled by the war and the termination of trade with Ethiopia, but has been steady recently due to state partnerships with mining companies. There are an estimated 60,000 Eritrean refugees in Israel.

Eritrea Government

Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea since May 24, 1993.

Members Seats
Appointed members 64
Central Committee of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice 40
Total 104

Christian ministries operating

In Eritrea there are four officially recognized religous groups: Eritrean Orthodox (Tewahedo) Church, Catholic, Sunni Muslim, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. Faith groups outside these four are called "Pente" (a slang originally associated with Pentecostal) and have been under official government restriction since May of 2002.

Some critics have seen this as an Orthodox-influenced reaction to the highly effective evangelization efforts of Christian believers among the ranks of conscripted soldiers during the 1962-1991 war.

There are no reliable statistics on religious affiliation. The government reports that 50 percent of the population is Christian and 50 percent Sunni Muslim. According to a 2010 international nongovernmental organization (NGO) estimate, the population is 63 percent Christian and 36 percent Muslim. The same NGO asserts that Orthodox Christians make up approximately 57 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 4 percent, and Protestants − including the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Baptists, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, and others without international affiliation − 1 percent. Source

Eritrea Conditions

Over two-thirds of the population lives below the national poverty line and the vast majority in rural areas, about one-third of the population lives in extreme poverty and more than half survives on less than US$1 per day. Because Eritrea is isolated, information about conditions is limited as are healthcare resources. There were an estimated 5 doctors per 10,000 population in 2004, life expectancy has risen from 39 years in 1960 to 60 years in 2008, and infant mortality has fallen from 185 per thousand to a reported 53 per thousand during the same period. Malaria and Tuberculosis are common. Among Eritreans aged 15-49, the HIV infection rate exceeds 2%.

Eritrea, along with other nations in the horn of Africa region, often struggles with periods of drought and soil erosion. Because 80% of the workforce is employed in agriculture, difficult conditions like last year's drought can cause famines. It is known that Eritrea has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, but little official information escapes the country because of the state of the government.

Eritrea is in Eastern Africa and is bordered by the Red Sea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Population Pyramid graph

Mortality Causes Graph

GMO's Stats on Eritrea

In 2015, Global Media Outreach registered 193 gospel visits, 47 indicated decisions and 43 discipleship visits. We have no Online Missionaries living in Eritrea.


"[Yo]u see I got this problem I never think about my religion before I'm 20 yrs old that is [because] of our family we don't have good life [because] of money I been searching money for my whole life to change our life so I want to be faithful so how can I be with all that problem to have?" — Eritrean contact Kebron Isayas

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Member Prayer Requests/Praise Report from last week

Deborah - has a cold + very cold in DE, services canceled. Four funerals last week, including one of a pastor who had formerly pastored Deborah's church. One of the members’ husbands died.

Linda - (Praise) Business sale complete 12/31. Transition underway now. Getting new people to follow their traditions. Some clients have been with them for 15 years.

Barbara - Wasn't able to be on the call last week due to illness. Has been recovering since Christmas. Will be participating in the March for Life on Monday 1/22 (that is the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision)

Mike - Emily back at college; caught the flu.