Published: 11:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 23 May 2013
Help and hope for persecuted Eritrean Christian refugees
Kidnapped. Raped. Starved. Tortured. Jailed. These are typical experiences of many Eritrean Christians who flee persecution in their homeland only to suffer unimaginable horrors in their quest for freedom.
|Torture wounds on the arms and hands of an Eritrean Christian refugee|
As they make the dangerous journey across the deserts of Sinai in a bid to get to safety in Israel, many fall into the hands of people traffickers. The Christian detainees are subjected to horrendous abuse, and huge ransom payments are demanded from their families for their release.
Others are arrested and imprisoned in Egypt, where they face similar violations and deprivation.
Among them is Merhawi (17), who was transferred from one group of traffickers to another. The third group in Sinai tortured him mercilessly, leaving him with permanent scarring all over his body. Merhawi’s family had to pay US$30,000 for his release, having already paid US$5,000 to each of the two other groups.
The teenager managed to get to Cairo, where he met some fellow Eritreans who took him to the project that Barnabas supports there. Our partners arranged urgent medical treatment for him and accommodated him in one of our safe houses. They said:
He is recovering slowly, with the love and support of the Eritreans in Cairo and our team. He said that in Eritrea he was unable to have fellowship with anyone, so he is enjoying the freedom to pursue his faith with other believers.
As well as helping those like Merhawi who have escaped traffickers, the ministry in Egypt also provides support for imprisoned Eritrean Christians. More than 700, including 100 women, are currently in Egyptian jails. Our partners and volunteers visit prisoners, taking them essentials, including food, clothing and medicines.
We also fund legal fees for some cases and help Christians upon their release with temporary accommodation.
Sanctuary for women
|Christian women at our sanctuary in Israel|
In Israel, Barnabas is supporting a sanctuary for Christian women from Eritrea, many of whom have suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse. This opened at the end of July 2012, and last week we agreed to continue funding this vital ministry.
The multi-purpose centre offers practical help, such as child care and health advice, educational opportunities, including English and Hebrew classes, and emotional and spiritual support, which is helping the women to overcome the trauma they have experienced.
One beneficiary said:
The centre has become so important for us and for the community. I now have a place to go where I can ask questions and get advice… Thank you!
Eritrea is one of the worst places in the world to be a Christian. More than 2,000 are estimated to be incarcerated in the country’s notoriously harsh detention system; some are held in metal shipping containers with extreme temperature changes. They are tortured in an effort to make them recant their faith.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
Such severe persecution forces many Christians to flee Eritrea but they often end up in another nightmare scenario. Their plight is deeply tragic but the ministries that we are supporting in Egypt and Israel offer them help and hope.
If you would like to help Eritrean Christians who have been forced to flee their homeland, please send a donation to our Eritrean Christian refugees fund (project 12-954).using our secure server.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Eritrean Christian refugees fund (project 12-954).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Eritrean Christian refugees fund (project 12-954).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/954 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- Give thanks that Merhawi is now safe, and pray that he will continue to recover from his ordeal and grow in his faith.
- Pray for Eritrean Christians who are imprisoned in either their own country or in Egypt. Pray that they will know the Lord’s presence and peace, and that they will be swiftly released.
- Give thanks that the sanctuary in Israel is making such a difference to the lives of abused Christian women. Pray that it will be able to reach out to many more in need of help.