The oppression of Christians in Eritrea isn’t widely recognised, but that’s probably because independent and international media are largely absent from this northeast African country.
That’s the view of Asali Kali Kimbo*, an Eritrean native who is host of the TWR radio programme Youth Bible Study. He says that in an environment where human rights in general are violated regularly, informants monitor religious gatherings and many Christian leaders have disappeared or been imprisoned.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled poverty, authoritarian rule and military conscription. Many of those have joined the wave of refugees making the frequently deadly crossing of the Mediterranean to Europe.
Kimbo was an investigative journalist who fled Eritrea to avoid the fate of another man from his community who was kidnapped and mysteriously killed. When Kimbo’s wife and three children tried to follow him, they all died in a boat accident. Even in the most difficult times, he said, God took care of him and eventually led him to TWR Africa and Youth Bible Study.
The programme allows him to encourage listeners living among the persecution back home.
“It reminds them about the sufferings of the early Christians and how they survived and resisted the Christian persecution,” Kimbo said. “It gives them hope to continue to bear their sufferings with strong conviction … to build their faith by placing their sufferings under the feet of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Christian broadcasting is a powerful weapon that helps Christians to live in tolerance and endure the existing challenges they are facing.”
Along with Youth Bible Study in the Kunama and Tigre languages, TWR broadcasts programmes such as Thru the Bible and Megazine Melekete Selam (Message of Peace) in Eritrea’s main language of Tigrinya from its shortwave transmitter in Swaziland. TWR Africa is eager to expand its ministry to Eritrea with a Tigrinya version of The Way of Righteousness, which has been very effective at explaining the Bible to Muslims.
“It is my deepest conviction that prayers and fasting by Christians in countries where there is little or no persecution would definitely make an impact for the people of Eritrea,” Kimbo said.“In addition, Christians should unite and lift their voices to the international community about how the Eritrean Christians are suffering.”
*Not his real name. Photograph representative only.