President Isaiahs Afewerki studied engineering at the University of Haile Selassie, but dropped out to join the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in Sudan. From there, he fought for Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. During this time, he was confronted with disappointment and fear, but despite internal politics, he remained very loyal to the movement. From 1967-68, he received military training in China, returning to Africa to continue working for the ELF.
In 1971, Afewerki wrote a manifesto which placed emphasis on overcoming ethnic and religious differences as well as launching the struggle during the independence war. He made a career of politics and was elected as president in 1993, two years after Eritrea formally won independence. In 2002, he restricted freedom of religion by only officially recognizing the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Islam.
Since then, many Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses (and a small number of Muslims) have been incarcerated in terrible circumstances in Eritrea’s notoriously brutal prisons and military camps. They are often kept in dungeons and even metal shipping containers. Many have been tortured, and some have not survived their imprisonment. Others have only been released after recanting their faith or agreeing to abstain from further involvement in Christian activities.
How to pray
Afewerki is driven by a nationalistic ideology; however, he’s at the core of the persecution of Christians. Pray that God will change Afewerki’s heart, and that he will find his security in the Lord Almighty and not in his own man-made power base.