Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Eritrea – Christian Prisoner Dies, Mass Arrests Resume
While Open Doors received word of the 25th known death of a Christian prisoner of conscience in Eritrea, it also learned that the government has arrested a large number of Christians who gathered for prayer last Wednesday. Wehazit Berhane Debesai, a Christian woman in her 30’s, died two weeks ago. The exact day of her death is unknown. She died of pneumonia after facing harsh imprisonment conditions and denial of medical treatment because she refused to denounce her faith. Wehazit was arrested a year ago and kept in seclusion in Adi Quala, south of Mendefera, near the Ethiopian border. The government arrested her because she was involved in Christian activities outside of the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran church groups. Open Doors doesn’t know much about Wehazit apart from the fact that she was engaged to be married to a man Open Doors sources knew only by his first name, Yohannes. He was arrested the same day as Wehazit and was also held at Adi Quala.
Meanwhile security officials arrested 70 Christians belonging to various denominations on Wednesday in the capital of Asmara. The group included 27 women. The arrests came as the Christians met for a special prayer gathering. It is the third time the pastor leading the prayer event has been imprisoned for his Christian activities. Open Doors is withholding his name due to security reasons. The latest arrests bring to nearly 300 the number of Christians that have been arrested this year in what local Christians have called the most serious campaign against the Church yet.
An Open Doors observer commented: “We would like to ask Christians to pray for Christian women and men of all ages who remain in prison for their faith. They are secluded in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers and military detention centers. They face exposure, hard labor and insufficient food, water and hygiene. They are regularly denied medical treatment for malaria and pneumonia which they contracted while in prison or diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or cancer that they may have had prior to imprisonment.”
Eritrea is ranked No. 10 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Nigeria – Boko Haram Attacks Increase in the North
Heavily armed militants, suspected members of Boko Haram, attacked Damaturu, Yobe state capital, last Thursday. It appears that hundreds of members of the Muslim terrorist sect took part in the surprise offensive that took place in an area that hosts government institutions but also affected the Christian-dominated Jerusalem area. According to the BBC, the militants also attacked a hospital, stole drugs and drove off in ambulances. The death toll of the gun battle between the militants and the army that lasted several hours has not been confirmed. A Damaturu resident told Nigerian media, “It was a coordinated onslaught by the insurgents. They divided themselves into so many groups. No one can tell you how many people have been killed, but the truth is the casualty numbers must be high.”
An Open Doors worker in Nigeria reported: “Efforts to reach Christians in the town by telephone proved futile as all lines have been cut. That is common practice during attacks such as these. We have been able to contact Christians who live in areas away from the capital. They expressed great worry over the safety of their friends and family in Damaturu. This city has suffered many attacks in the past and is now under a dusk-till-dawn curfew. We are concerned over the effect of the continued violence on believers in Yobe state. They are living in constant fear. Every single day there are believers who lose loved ones and see destruction of their property.”
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states in May, but his government has since come under increased criticism for its failure to bring an end to the continuing violence.
Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the World Watch List.