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Finding Joy Despite Solitary Confinement

October 24, 2013 by Open Doors in General

Metal shipping container used to house prisoners

A young Christian woman in Eritrea, well known as an active servant in Christ’s underground church, faced the constant danger of imprisonment. Isolated from family members, her life has been lonely. Though many had tried to force her to recant her faith in Christ over the years and she has seen fellow Eritrean Christians martyred for their dedication to Christ, her faith remained strong.

A few years ago, she attended a secret gathering for Bible study and prayer at a private residence along with 25 other Christians. As they were studying, security officials invaded the meeting and arrested everyone there.

Knowing this young woman had been influential in the church, officials kept her in solitary confinement. She was interrogated and tortured to recant her faith in Christ and to give them the names of other underground Christians. Despite her suffering, she remained silent, confirming to her interrogators that she was willing to die for Christ if necessary.

The torture went on and on without success. Eventually, they resorted to deception; opportunity presenting itself when her pastor visited the prison. He indicated that he was a family member of one of the prisoners, but the commanders saw through him and arrested him.

After his arrest, they told the young woman that he had quickly denied Christ, expressing regret over having followed Christ and having deceived those in his church into following Him. “Follow him in denying Christ,” they urged her. “This is what he wants you to do. He told us that.”

Knowing her reply could get her executed, she replied without hesitation, “I do not believe that my pastor would deny his Savior. But even if he did, I will not deny my Lord and Redeemer. I do not follow my pastor. I follow Christ, my Lord.” As a punishment, her tormentors moved her to a part of the prison where treatment was even harsher. She suffered there for one year before the Lord intervened and she was released having remained faithful to Christ.

A group of pastors who recently visited her was shocked by her appearance; her body appeared frail due to the substantial weight loss. Despite the weakness, they said, she “looked to us like a soldier who has returned from war victorious! Her joy was very visible and quite overwhelming. We asked her to tell us what she had gone through. Instead of giving a litany of woes, anger or fear, she simply said, ‘It was a honeymoon with Jesus!'”

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Eritrea is one of the countries of particular concern (CPC) for ongoing egregious violations of religious freedom. In May 2002, Eritrean authorities ordered immediate shut down of all unregistered churches and in subsequent years have arrested and tortured hundreds of Christians found worshiping in their homes.

Father, thank You for the testimony of this faithful young woman, and many other Christians who have been willing to suffer torture, imprisonment and even death, rather than deny Christ. Sustain them in the midst of daily threat of persecution. Comfort and encourage them. Cause them to turn their thoughts from their suffering that they might see Christ and the glory that awaits them. We pray Your comfort and sustaining power to rest upon the thousands who have fled the country and live as refugees around the world. In the name of Jesus who “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Amen.

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