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Pastor jailed, tortured and starved in Eritrea

A pastor who ministered in Eritrea said in an interview that he was tortured, starved and forced to do hard labor while he was imprisoned in the country. The pastor, who is called “Gabriel,” told the Barnabas Fund that he was jailed several times while working in Eritrea, the seventh most hostile country in the world for Christians, according to Open Doors USA.

Gabriel was first jailed in 1998 for about a month along with other church members. His second time, he was imprisoned for three years even though his sentencing was only for six months. He says he was kept longer because he is a Christian pastor. He fled the country after his release.

“Sometimes you dispute with God, why you let me go through this hardship?” Gabriel was quoted as saying. “But when you start reading the Bible, when you pray devotion daily, automatically your mind clicks, you are in the main way – the way you are supposed to go.”

He said once he was tied up and hit in the head with a stick for about an hour. Another time he was locked inside a metal shipping container for two weeks in solitary confinement.

He said prisoners were only given a small amount of food every 18 hours and they were forced to collect and to carry stones that would be used in construction work.

“Sometimes you break the stones with a heavy hammer. You hear a sound here, in your back, because everyone has malnutrition,” Gabriel recalled. 

“The guards discriminated against Christian believers, refusing them medical treatment if they fell sick.”

During his imprisonment, a nurse told him to reject his Christian beliefs so the beatings would stop. The nurse suggested that Gabriel could later continue his Christian faith once he was out of jail.

He recalls other Christians received similar treatment. Two converts who made the decision to follow Christ while they were in jail were beaten for three days and tortured by having cold water poured on them each night in punishment, but they stood firm in their faith. “Whatever you like you can do [to us], for now we are born-again Christians,” they said.  Eventually the guards gave up their torture campaign and released them saying, “We cannot not stop this Christian thing.”

Bibles were forbidden in prison and the discovery of any Scripture resulted in severe punishment. Gabriel recalls how the Christian prisoners divided up a Bible and hid it underneath their bedding. He was sustained by the book of Revelation, which he taught to other prisoners.

In Eritrea, since religious registration policies were introduced in 2002, only three Christian denominations are legally permitted – Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran – as well as Sunni Islam. In June 2019, the latest victims of an ongoing government crackdown on Christians in Eritrea were women, some pregnant, and children who were arrested by security forces in a raid on a church in the city of Keren.

Sources: Christian Headlines, Christian Post, Pakistan Christian Post, Barnabas Fund

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