Christians in Eritrea are being persecuted, with more than 300 believed to be in jails, and some of them are being told to renounce their faith in exchange for freedom.
When Release International visited a refugee camp in the country, the organization learned about the pitiful plight of Christians who had fled Eritrea. One refugee named Dawit told the researchers that he left Eritrea because almost all Christians face imprisonment for their faith, Christian Today relays.
In his month-long stay in prison, Dawit said he endured torture and hard labor. Every night, he was forced to sleep with his hands and feet tied behind his back.
Ashemelash, another prisoner, recalled how other prisoners are tied up and hung from trees to make them look like they are on a crucifix. He likened Eritrea to North Korea because of the abundance of jails and concentration camps.
Elsa, who fled Eritrea after prison guards beat her sister to death, said they stayed in underground cells. At other times, they were kept in a metal shipping container, which turned very hot during the day and very cold during the night.
“We didn’t get much to eat and there was no medical treatment,” said Elsa. “The guards offered to let us go, but only if we renounced our faith in Jesus. We said no.”
One night, the guards beat them up so bad that her sister ended up dead.
President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea, an African country where Christians have been persecuted for the more than a decade now. Release International says the government has closed all evangelical and independent Churches and has been torturing Christians.
Because of the dire situation, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says more than 130,000 Eritreans fled the country and lived as refugees in Ethiopia as of December 2015. Although the country only has six million residents, the lack of religious liberty has made Eritrea one of the top sources of refugees in Europe.
The government of Eritrea sees religion as a threat to its power and has since implemented measures to control it. To help Eritrean refugees, Release International has organized small businesses in refugee camps and has provided them a place where they can freely practice their faith.