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Eritrean Christian Flees Native Country After Years of Persecution

ICC Note

“Beatings, mock executions and food and water deprivation were common during his ordeal, along with his captors often demanding him to renounce his faith in Christ,”

By Michael Ireland
12/06/2010 Eritrea (ANS)-A staff member for a US-based missions group has fled Eritrea after years of imprisonment, and now holds refugee status in a neighboring country.

“Benji” is a twenty-three-year-old Eritrean national, whose work and affiliation with a Midwest mission organization contributed to his arrest and imprisonment for over three years in deplorable conditions, which included confinement in metal shipping containers and caves with metal bars placed at the entrances.

“For over three years Benji faced incredible suffering as a result of his faith,” said Kevin Turner, president of Strategic World Impact, an international missions organization headquartered in Oklahoma.

“Beatings, mock executions and food and water deprivation were common during his ordeal, along with his captors often demanding him to renounce his faith in Christ,” he added.

Arrested nearly four years ago, Benji was forced to live in confined spaces with nearly 300 other men, some of whom died as a result of their treatment. He survived on two pieces of bread and one cup of tea per day.

Benji eventually fled the country by foot, enduring the dangerous African elements, which included searing heat and deadly hyenas. When found by SWI staff members in a nearby country, he was treated for Typhus, Malaria and severe malnutrition.

Located just north of Ethiopia, Eritrea has a documented history of persecuting religious minorities, in a country where only four religious groups are formally recognized by the government. These include Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Christians of other denominations, particularly evangelical Christians, regularly face discrimination and even imprisonment.

Turner, who has testified before the United States Congress several times about persecution and human rights violations around the world, says that Benji’s story is not uncommon.

“Many pastors and evangelical Christians in Eritrea have greatly suffered over the years as a result of discrimination towards non-sanctioned religious groups,” he said.

Currently residing in a refugee camp, Benji is still enduring hardship and sickness. SWI is currently working on his release to assist him in beginning a new life.

It is estimated that at least 200 million Christians around the world endure some form persecution for their faith, varying from discrimination and harassment to torture and death.