World News

International community prompted to act after church leader’s death in prison

Reverend Ghirmay Araya, one of the founding fathers of the Full Gospel Church in Eritrea, was arrested and jailed for his Christian faith in 2021.

Reverend Araya had never committed a crime. The Eritrean government sentenced him to prison despite his advanced age. He died at the age of 83 at the maximum-security Wengel Mermera Central Criminal Investigation Centre last week. He left behind five children and thirteen grandchildren. According to local sources, one of his sons, who is a Lutheran minister, is currently incarcerated in a shipping container. 

Release International, a charity supporting persecuted Christians, expressed their deep condolences and stated that Reverend Araya “endured his suffering with steadfast faith”.

Dr Berhane Asmelash, who has recently published his autobiography titled Brother, I Have Come to Arrest You, explained: “Rev Ghirmay served the church diligently for more than 60 years in both Eritrea and Ethiopia. His ministry extended across the Orthodox, Lutheran, and finally Full Gospel churches. There are hundreds of Christians imprisoned in Eritrea; many are getting on in age and suffer from various health conditions. All our calls to the government of Eritrea have fallen on deaf ears. So I call on the international community and fellow believers to put pressure on the government about trying to stop this barbaric act against people who have done nothing wrong.”

Dr Asmelash’s book about his own imprisonment for being a Christian is supported by Fiona Bruce MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. She said: “The world should know of the suffering and bravery of thousands of Eritreans, barbarically imprisoned, tortured, and killed – simply on account of their beliefs. And to know that this is happening right now, in the third decade of the 21st century. This is not cheap grace.”

Release International CEO Paul Robinson stated: “This is a remarkable account of the importance – and possibility – of standing strong in the faith under the most appalling of conditions, as the tragic death of Rev Ghirmay Araya serves to illustrate. As Fiona Bruce and Dr Berhane remind us, there is no such thing as cheap grace. And this book serves as a wake-up call to the church in the free world, to truly value our freedom and to use it effectively for the Gospel.”



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