The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46
Off the coast of Eritrea, deep under the warm waters of the Red Sea, a grain of sand torments the flesh of an oyster to create a lustrous pearl from which the Bible says the gates of the holy city of heaven are made of. Since Roman times some of the world’s most beautiful pearls have been harvested from the waters of the archipelago that sits along the coast of this country known for its long history of violence, torture and oppression, and in particular today… against Christians.
It is here in Eritrea, a country nestled in the Horn of Africa, that our sisters Terhase Gebremichel Andu and Ferewine Genzabu Kifly were detained in a secret “dungeon” like confinement for several years. Sadly, last month, they succumbed to years of torture and abuse, and died. This August, during the extreme African summer heat, our brother in Christ, Angesom Teklom Habtemichel, tortured and denied medical treatment for his refusal to sign forms recanting his faith, also died while in prison. In total, twenty-one Christians have died in Eritrean military camps; countless others (est. over 2,200) still remain imprisoned.
Although sisters like Terhase and Andu, our brother Teklom, and others like them, have lost their earthly lives; through their steadfast faith they have earned the honor to walk through the pearled gates of the kingdom of heaven.