Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 10 January 2002
Churches Shut Down
All Christian Churches apart from those belonging to Eritrea's three principal denominations have been ordered to close according to information received by the World Evangelical Alliance.
Eritrea, whose population is divided roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, has previously enjoyed excellent inter-faith relations and religious freedom. The shocking move to close all churches apart from those belonging to the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Mekane Yesus (Evangelical Lutheran) denominations is a severe blow for many Christians in the country. The crackdown is considered by many to be a response to the growing evangelical movement amongst Eritrean Christians. The growth of evangelicalism is resented both by some Muslims in the country, many of whom are increasingly influenced by Islamic militant teachings from neighbouring Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, and by more traditional conservative elements amongst the dominant Orthodox Church. The new move parallels the continuing deterioration in circumstances for many Christians in Central Asia where small Christian denominations are facing increasing restrictions on their activities from governments determined to suppress evangelical activity and maintain the status quo between large Muslim and Orthodox Christian populations.
1. Pray for those Christians in Eritrea who now find themselves facing new and disturbing restrictions on their freedom to worship. Pray that they will be able to continue meeting and sharing their faith without facing any penalties.
2. Pray that this startling change in official policy will be swiftly reversed and that good relations between Christians and with the authorities will be restored.