Eritrean Christian Dies for Refusing to Renounce Faith

An Eritrean Christian man recently died after spending four-and-a-half years in jail for his participation in a banned protestant church, reported a persecution watchdog group.

Magos Solomon Semere, 30, died of torture and chronic pneumonia in a facility near the port city of Assab in southeast Eritrea, according to Compass Direct News sources. He died on Feb. 15 after refusing to deny his faith in exchange for medical treatment.

Moreover, during his years in prison, the Christian leader was barred from seeing his fiancée who he was shortly engaged to before being arrested in 2002.

“Magos was determined to obey the lord rather than men,” reflected one of Semere’s prison mate, according to Compass.

The small East African nation is infamous among Christian persecution watchdog groups and religious freedom organizations for its intense persecution of people of faith it deems illegal or dangerous.

There is no state religion in Eritrea, but the government officially recognizes the Orthodox Church of Eritrea (Coptic Orthodox), the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. However, recent reports indicate that the government is beginning to increase attacks on the Orthodox Church of Eritrea as some of its churches have increased evangelism efforts.

The government is particularly suspicious of newer Christian groups such as Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals in the region.

Semere, a protestant Christian from a group not recognized by the government, was first imprisoned in 2001 for evangelizing and holding worship meetings. He was released after 18 months, but re-arrested three months later during a large Protestant worship gathering in July 2002, according to Compass.

Eritrea is ranked high on many persecution and religious freedom violation lists including Open Doors and International Christian Concern. In addition, Eritrea is designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. Department of State for three straight years for its severe and “egregious” religious freedom violations.

A CPC status is a serious red flag to the U.S. government that can lead to actions such as sanctions against the designated country.

It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 Christians imprisoned, most likely indefinitely, without charge in Eritrea.