The Eritrean government outlawed worship outside of Islam and the Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches in 2002, driving all other Christian churches underground as they faced varying degrees of restrictions and attacks. Since then, thousands of Christians have been arrested and incarcerated without benefitting from a legal process. Among them is Pastor Haile Naigzhi, who was arrested in 2004 and remains incarcerated today, nearly 12 years later.
For years following Pastor Naigzhi’s arrest in 2004, his wife Awet* and their three children waited patiently for his release. But everything changed in 2013, when Awet received credible information that the government wanted to arrest her and the children.
Awet made the incredibly difficult decision to flee. We cannot tell you where she and the children fled to, or how they got there, because even in diaspora they face danger. But what we can joyfully share with you is that after many months of turmoil, the family has found asylum and at least a modicum of stability in a new country. The sense of freedom they are now enjoying is a welcome relief.
“We feel safer here. We are able to freely serve God!” Awet shares. And yet the change has not been easy. They miss Haile dearly, and they also miss their home and friends.
If it were possible for Haile to see beyond his prison walls for just a moment, he would observe in his wife and children deep, vibrant faith that would make him proud. The family knows that it is the prayers of fellow Christians that allow them to persevere. Time and again during our visit with them, they asked for continued prayer.
“Pray for Haile and the other prisoners to be safe and strong and to be released soon so that we can be together again,” says Awet. “Also pray that God will keep us safe until we find our way back to Eritrea. Please pray for our country.”
To learn more about Christian persecution in Eritrea, # 3 on the World Watch List, click here.
*Representative name used for security reasons