Eritrean refugees are the Christians the world has forgotten, according to Release International.
In a report, the Christian advocacy organisation said Eritrean Christians are often ‘eclipsed by the crisis in the Middle East’, but the mass exodus is not to be ignored. About one in 12 Eritreans has fled the country in recent years, many of whom are Christians.
Eritrea has been branded ‘one of the world’s fastest emptying nations’ and ‘the North Korea of Africa’. Last year, 40,000 people risked death from drowning to escape to Italy. Others fled to Sudan or Ethiopia.
Eritrea has jailed hundreds of Christians, simply because of their faith. Many are now living in makeshift refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia.
Release International has been to one of the camps to hear their stories, and reported how worshippers have been praising God in the camps — a ‘sound forbidden in their homeland’.
One man, Dawit was jailed and tortured in Eritrea for being a Christian. He says that is why he was forced to leave. He told Release: ‘I am a Christian from Eritrea. But now I am living in this refugee camp in Ethiopia. Eritrea is under a dictatorship. There is no law and no justice.
‘When I was living in Eritrea, I was arrested because of my Christian faith. That’s why I left. In Eritrea almost every Christian faces imprisonment. That’s why I was in prison, first for one month; then I was sent to a labour camp, where I had to work without payment. I was also detained for two weeks, when I was tortured.
‘Each night I had to sleep on the floor with my arms and feet tied together tightly. They called it the Number 8. Because of that, I still have back pain’.
The report added: ‘Sometimes prisoners are tied up and hanged from trees. One form of hanging is known as the Jesus Christ, because it looks like a crucifix.
‘For the past 13 years, the government has been persecuting Christians. They have been arrested for their faith, and all evangelical and independent churches have been closed. And the people have been tortured for their faith’.