Religious Freedom – Eritrea

Jump to news clippings on religious freedom in Eritrea


Eritrea’s population is mainly Orthodox Christian and Sunni Muslim. Christians are predominant in the central highlands; the Muslim population is typically found in the eastern and western lowlands. Eritrea is home to other Christian denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Animists, and Baha’is.[1]

Eritrea has legal provisions for religious freedom. However, in practice, the freedom of religion is severely restricted by officials. Four religious communities are officially recognized: Eritrean Orthodoxy, Sunni Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Evangelical Lutheranism of Eritrea.[2] All religious groups outside of the four official categories are required to register. The government appoints some religious leaders, including the mufti of the Muslim community.[3] Groups must seek approval for construction projects as well as for the printing and distribution of documents.[4] Religious communities are prohibited from political involvement.[5] Military conscription is mandatory without any exceptions for conscientious objectors.[6]

Freedom of association is not guaranteed; thus, gatherings of unregistered groups such as weddings are technically illegal. Members of unregistered religious communities also have difficulty obtaining exit visas or passports.[7]

Thousands have been detained for their beliefs, often without due process, facing torture, forcible conversion and horrific conditions;[8] in particular, the government seems to target Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses.[9]

The US Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, created in July 2014 has not been allowed into Eritrea to conduct its research.[10]

For further reading:


[9] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 40.
[10] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 41.


Eritrea: Two Jehovah’s Witnesses die in prison

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide Two elderly Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had been in detention since 2008, are reported to have died in early 2018 in Mai Serwa Prison near the Eritrean capital, Asmara. According to a press release from the ... Full Article

Eritrea arrests another 22 Christians

By World Watch Monitor The number of Eritrean Christians arrested since the beginning of May has risen to more than 120, according to charities Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). World Watch Monitor first reported on the fresh ... Full Article