Q: Although reliable estimates are hard to come by, can you tell us a little bit about the religious landscape now in Eritrea?
[Habtu] Ghebre-Ab: The Eritrean people are very religious. Religion is an integral part of the lives of the people and Christianity and Islam have co-existed freely for centuries. Today, of the 4 million people, more or less 50% of the population is Christian and the other half belong to Islam. The Orthodox Church, being of course the largest Christian faith in Eritrea and Ethiopia, accounts for almost 95% of the Christian population.
Q: A Freedom House Report states: “Eritrea is a nation in a perpetual state of emergency, under siege by its own leaders with a population denied the most basic freedoms of speech, assembly, press and religious practice.” What does this mean for Christians today in Eritrea?
Ghebre-Ab: What it means for Christians is that, although the so-called minority churches were proscribed, beginning in May 2002, they have since been literally criminalized, their members and leaders thrown in jail and they are not allowed to worship in Eritrea at all.