July 16, 2013 by Open Doors

Another Christian Dies in Eritrean Prison Camp

Open Doors has recently learned about the death of another Christian in an Eritrean prison. Yosief Kebedom Gelai, a recently converted single Christian, died in Medefera July 5. Sources told Open Doors that Yosief, 41, had been sick for a long time, but that the harsh treatment at a secret Medefera incarceration center aggravated the effects of the unknown disease. Yosief is the 24th reported death connected to punishment for religious activities outside of the government-sanctioned Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Lutheran Church and Islam. However, because of the government’s secrecy surrounding prisoners and denied access to watchdog organizations, there may be many more deaths and burials that have not been reported.

Yosief was originally from Asmara. He went to Mendefera to teach at a primary school some time prior to his arrest. Six months after his arrival Yosief came to faith in Christ. His devotion to Bible study and prayer caught the attention of representatives of the ruling Eritrean People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (EPRDF) at the school. Authorities arrested him in December and took him to the secret incarceration center in Mendefera where he was kept incommunicado. Sources told Open Doors the center holds many other religious prisoners whose whereabouts were previously unknown to family members and churches. “Christians should be hugely encouraged to see how God through His Holy Spirit enables His children, even new and isolated ones like Yosief, to remain firm in their devotion to Christ no matter the circumstances,” commented an Open Doors team member.

Open Doors’ Partner Churches Help Hurting Victims in Syria

Open Doors is partnering with various churches of all denominations in Syria in the relief effort to help the internally displaced and needy Syrians. One of the churches that is helping is the Alliance Church in Damascus, led by pastor Edward. Teams from his church visit the internally displaced people in Damascus to see how the church can help them, to pray with them and to comfort them. Pastor Edward writes about one of the families he visited: “Oh my mother! How many times I have dreamed that one day I would fall in love with a young handsome man, who would place a beautiful bracelet around my hand and a shiny necklace around my neck. But look at me….only shrapnel wounds that you find all over my body; only ugly scars. Oh my mom.”

With these words Sawsan*, 14, expressed her pain and depression to our social team. She and her family used to live in the Harasta area (a suburb of Damascus), when one day a mortar landed inside their home and turned their life upside down. The father and Sawsan were hit and wounded severely. Today the mother is helping all day to lessen the pain and suffering of her family and to have the basic needs met. The family had to leave their home immediately. They moved to a relatively safer neighborhood just to continue their quiet and sad days. They later learned that their belongings were stolen as some gangs broke into their home and took everything. Our social team visits this family regularly. The family was placed to receive all assistance the church offers. The Gospel was shared and well received.

*For security reasons her name has been changed for this article.

(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).

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