State of Eritrea
May 2

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Area 121,100 Arid, mountainous, temperate plateau and hot desert lowlands along the Red Sea Coast.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 3,850,388 +3.86% 32 per sq km
2010 4,909,569 +2.40% 40 per sq km
2025 6,680,653 +1.83% 55 per sq km

Capital Asmara 460,000. Urbanites 16%.


Nine indigenous peoples.

Semitic 78.2%. Tigrinya 1.8mill.; Tigre 1.2m; Rashaida Arab 12,000.

Cushitic 16.9%. Saho 180,000; Bilen 161,000; Afar 160,000; Beja (Beni Amer, Hedareb) 150,000.

Sudanic 4.9%. Kunama 107,000; Nara 80,000.

Literacy 20%. Official language none. Tigrinya, Arabic and English most widely used. All languages 11. Languages with Scriptures 5Bi 1NT 1por 1w.i.p.


Devastated by 30 years of war, periodic drought and lack of infrastructure for development. Much potential for mineral extraction and light industry with a highly motivated population in a strategic location. HDI 0.346; 167th/174. Public debt 9% of GNP. Income/person $230 (0.70% of USA).


Italian colony 1890-1941. UN-arranged federation with Ethiopia in 1951. The war for Eritrean independence began in 1961. All three liberation movements were avowedly Marxist, but since the ending of Ethiopian rule, ideology was laid aside in the effort to rebuild the nation. Reconstruction of the country was seriously disrupted by the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia. This bitter war merged with and further complicated the armed conflicts in neighbouring Sudan and Somalia.


Freedom of religion, but the fine balance between the Muslim and Christian halves of the population tempers that freedom with restrictive policies. Persecution Index 56th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 47.97 1,847,031 +3.5%
Christian 47.43 1,826,239 +4.2%
non-Religious/other 4.00 154,016 +4.9%
Traditional ethnic 0.60 23,102 -4.2%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 10 1.35 52 +7.7%
Independent 3 0.16 6 +14.9%
Catholic 1 3.77 145 +2.9%
Orthodox 1 40.98 1,578 +4.4%
Marginal 1 0.04 2 +9.9%
Unaffiliated   1.13 65 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Eritrean Orthodox O 800 933,728 1,578,000
Catholic (Latin/Coptic) C 110 84,302 145,000
Ev Ch of Eritrea (Luth) P 52 7,343 21,000
Lutheran Ch in Eritrea P 21 3,700 8,500
Full Gospel P 20 1,600 5,500
Faith Church of Christ P 16 1,000 5,000
Assemblies of God P 20 2,000 4,000
Kale Heywet (SIM) P 15 1,400 3,700
Jehovah's Witnesses M 19 941 1,600
Other denominations [7]   53 4,752 10,200
Total Christians [16]   1,126 1,040,800 1,782,500

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 1.7 67 +7.9%
Charismatic 1.4 55 +7.3%
  Pentecostal 0.2 10 +16.4%

Missionaries from Eritrea
P,I,A 24 in 2 agencies; 23 in Eritrea.

Missionaries to Eritrea
P,I,A 33 in 10 agencies from 4 countries.

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Challenges for Prayer

1 Peace and national recovery has been delayed by conflicts with Ethiopia and Yemen. The Ethiopian war caused the death of 70,000+ Eritreans and Ethiopians in fierce trench warfare. The two presidents are both Tigrinya and were once friends. Pray for humility, willingness to compromise on the part of the leaders, and a just peace to end hostilities that neither country can afford.

2 Freedom of religion is a major issue. Fear of Islamist extremism and Christian evangelicalism has virtually ended international NGO projects and aid and has also restricted the entry of expatriate Christian workers. Pray for these restrictions to be lifted and for harmony between the ethnic and religious communities to be maintained.

3 Christians are largely Orthodox and almost entirely among the Tigrinya, with some Bilen and Kunama. Evangelicals are fewer. Christians of all denominations were refined and drawn together in fellowship during the hardships of war and Marxist propaganda. Churches are full and many Christians are actively witnessing. There is a significant biblical revival movement, Medhanie Alam, in the Orthodox Church. Pray that Christians may be fervent for Jesus and make a significant impact on their nation and beyond.

4 Evangelical churches are growing but are limited in resources for training and outreach. There is some nominalism in the Lutheran Church. The Full Gospel Church, with AoG help, has started a School of Leadership Training in Asmara, but more needs to be done in training godly leaders for all denominations. The Kale Heywet Church (SIM-related) has planted 11 new churches in 5 years and sent 21 evangelists to non-Christian and nominally Christian areas of the country. Pray for the maturing and expansion of the relatively small evangelical witness.

5 The return of Christian missionaries to serve the Church is an urgent need to supplement the handful of missionaries now in the land.

6 The less-reached. Pray specifically for:

a) The Tigre, who are almost entirely Muslim, and the only Eritrean or Ethiopian Semitic people which is not Orthodox. They are related to the Tigrinya, but culturally distant from them. The Bible is available, but there are few Christians.

b) The Jabarti who are a Muslim minority among the Tigrinya.

c) The Afar and related Saho peoples in the southeast with a handful of Christians and no known churches. Many are nomadic.

d) The Beja and Nara peoples of the northwest with no known witness. Many are nomadic.

e) The Arab Rashiada who migrated from Saudi Arabia in the 19th Century.

7 Specialist Christian ministries

a) Students. The IFES student witness has thrived since its inception in 1995. Pray for conversions and growth through them.

b) Radio. Both FEBA Seychelles (15 minutes 3 times/week) and TWR Swaziland (4 hrs/wk) broadcast in Tigrinya. There is nothing for Tigre or other languages yet.

c) The JESUS film has had limited use, but is available in five languages and is in preparation in three others. Pray for the effective use of this medium.

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