A religious freedom advocate believes the recent release of 13 Christians detained for years in the East African country of Eritrea shows the true power of prayer and devotion.
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Todd Nettleton, chief of media relations for persecution watchdog The Voice of the Martyrs, told CBN’s Faithwire the release last week of the six men and seven women was “an amazing answer to prayer.”
“All 13 of them, at least 10 years in prison, for them to be released is an amazing blessing,” Nettleton said, noting the timing was curious considering his organization had launched a massive campaign just six days earlier for the release of two pastors who have spent over 7,000 days in prison.
“They were arrested more than 19 years ago,” he said. “They’ve been in prison all that time. We asked people to pray for them and for other Christians imprisoned in Eritrea.”
The Voice of the Martyrs also asked for people to contact the Eritrean embassy on the pastors’ behalf.
While the two preachers — Pastor Haile Nayzgi and Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel — were not among the 13 released and while hundreds remain detained, just days after VOM called for a response, leaders did make a decision to let some Christians out from behind bars.
“It’s hard not to see those two things as connected,” Nettleton said.
Watch him explain:
Despite the praise over the release of the 13, whose names are not being made public out of safety concerns, Nettleton encouraged people to keep praying for Nayzgi and Gebremeskel and the hundreds of other Christians estimated to be held in Eritrea prisons.
“Not a single one of those Christians has had a trial, or had a lawyer, [or] had a chance to defend themselves, or represent their side of the story,” he said. “In fact, not a single one of them has been formally charged with a crime. They simply get arrested, they disappear into the prison system.”
Nettleton said their crime is being “followers of Jesus Christ” and working for churches inside of a nation hostile toward believers. He explained how Christians are often framed inside Eritrea as not patriotic and not good citizens; their love of God above all else is seen as a threat to the government.
Despite the uphill battle for justice and freedom, Nettleton said he has learned a valuable lesson about the importance of prayer and devotion — and of keeping pressure on bad government actors. With thousands reaching out to voice their concern over the pastors’ detainment, tensions have increased.
“Most of these governments don’t want that kind of light shined on the persecution that they are doing to our brothers and sisters,” he said. “This is not happening in the darkness. The world is aware of this and I think that does have an influence, even if it’s a subtle influence.”
Watch Nettleton explain.
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