In May of 2002, Eritrea's government officially banned all Christian groups that did not belong to state-recognized Churches. This ruling has resulted in massive persecution against Christians in that country. Since that time, Eritrea has imprisoned several thousand Christians. There are many, incarcerated in 2002, who have not yet appeared before a court. This year (2011), in a short two-month period, ninety believers have been arrested and only six of these have been released. In May of 2011, sixty-four Christians were arrested. Reports say that there are Christians being kept at both a police station and Mitire Prison. This military prison is known for its harsh living conditions and torture. Prisoners in this open-air, desert prison are exposed to poisonous snakes. Prisoners are made to participate in forced labor and they receive very little sustenance. The prison is not equipped with medical facilities. (“Eritrea Arrests Continue.” July 29, 2011

Because of the on-going arrests of Christians, many are fleeing across Eritrea's border, into Egypt, in hopes of escaping to Israel. Many Christian refugees die, attempting the nine-hundred mile journey through Egypt and others are gunned down as they cross the Egypt-Israeli border. In Egypt, Muslims frequently abduct these migrant Christians and hold them hostage for a $20,000 ransom. Hostages who are not fortunate enough to have the bail money raised are often killed. Many others who avoid being abducted by human traffickers are jailed by Egyptian authorities. There are currently 500 to 600 Eritrean prisoners in Egyptian jails. In jail, refugees suffer torture, sexual abuse and beatings. Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo has said; “The suffering of our brothers and sisters from Eritrea is unimaginable.” (“Eritrea Unimaginable Suffering.”

What is Canada's involvement in the country of Eritrea? Canada has done some business with Eritrea. In 2010, Canadian exports to Eritrea totalled $2,670,630.00. Canadian imports from Eritrea have been $258,635.00. Canada has also been involved in mediating between Eritrea and Ethiopia over a border dispute. In 2001, this mediation sent 450 peacekeepers to the border region. The Canadian government has officially said; “Canada remains concerned about Eritrea's human rights situation, particularly with regard to the respect for democracy and the rule of law, the imprisonment or ill treatment of political opposition and journalists, and the protection of civil liberties.” (“Canada-Eritrea Relations”  By quoting this document I am not claiming that the Canadian Government endorses my article, 

It is time for Canada's concern over Eritrea's human rights violations to be raised a notch and for strong diplomatic measures to be used in bringing change. This situation in Eritrea is utterly unacceptable and against the values of Canadians. Canadians do not want our country to compromise its values and do business with nations that openly practice this kind of cruelty upon minorities. The small amount of business that Canada does with Eritrea is of very small benefit to Canada but the damage done by making this kind of partnership is far greater. By doing business with Eritrea, on some level, we are condoning their actions or, at least, looking the other way. It is time to send a clear message to the government of Eritrea that we will not do business with, or give aid to, a government that is this oppressive towards innocent people, unless they are willing to change and to allow full religious freedom and release those prisoners whom they have detained for simply being a part of an unregistered Church.

Once again, Canadians do not want to look the other way. Canadians want our government to pressure governments like Eritrea to respect human rights and freedoms. If Eritrea does not do this, it is time to withdraw whatever business and support that we send to them. Write to your local member of parliament and to Canada's foreign affairs minister and express your desire to see change in Eritrea and in Canada's relationship with it.


Shawn Stevens




“Canada-Eritrea Relations.”

Eritrea Arrests Continue.” July 29, 2011.

“Eritrea Unimaginable Suffering.”