BACKGROUND: Eritrea suffered a 30-year civil war after its annexation by Ethiopia in 1962. The conflict was resolved in 1991 when Eritrean rebels defeated Ethiopian government forces. Located on the Red Sea, Eritrea practices a form of old world communism: the government controls everything. It is one of the most secretive and isolated nations in the world. The country faces drought and food insecurity. All males are required by law to serve in the military. Because of this, many young men flee the country.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: The population is evenly divided between Christianity and Islam.
PERSECUTOR: The military government arrests, imprisons and harasses Christians.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN ERITREA: In 2002, the government outlawed all but four denominations. The government heavily controls approved churches, including their messages. Despite the restrictions, the Eritrean church is growing. There are at least several hundred Christian prisoners in Eritrea, but very little is known about them. Many Christians simply disappear and are assumed to be in government prisons. Former prisoners have described being held for years in shipping containers in the desert in extreme conditions.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are available, but the government tracks each Bible sold.
VOM WORK: VOM supports the families of imprisoned Christians.