In 2002, the government of Eritrea passed legislation that locked down religious freedom in the country, outlawing every religion except Sunni Islam, Eritrean Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. Since that time, hundreds of believers have been detained without charge and often held for many years without trial.
Before his arrest, Pastor Haile Naizgi was the chair of the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea – a network comprising approximately 150 house church groups. These church groups were forcibly closed by a governmental decree but given an application form for official registration. Although the mandated forms were completed and submitted, the representing church leaders received no further contact from the government – until Pastor Haile’s arrest in May 2004. He has remained in prison under deplorable conditions ever since.
Another church leader, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel, served as the chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance and a member of the executive committee of the Full Gospel Church when he was arrested during an early morning raid on 23 May 2004.
These two Christian men have now passed their 7,000th day in prison. Reflecting on this solemn anniversary, Todd Nettleton from VOM USA stated: “[That equates to] one thousand weeks away from their families. Children that were very young when their fathers were arrested are now college graduates and even parents themselves. How many family milestones have these two Christians missed over the past 7,000 days? As a father and a grandfather, I weep at the thought of all the significant moments they have sacrificed for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.”