Eritrea: Only 4 Religious Denominations are Recognized

Right to Belief is one of the basic and fundamental rights of human being. In any state where some religion has an official recognition lead an automatic discrimination of any other religion or religious denomination. Eritrea is a unique example.

PFDJ Regime Religious guidelines are strict and work through official recognition. Those religious practices or denominations which are not recognized are banned from practice.

From the Christian denomination, Orthodox Church, Catholic Church, and Protestant are the only officially recognized churches. Any other Christian denomination is not allowed to operate. As a result, many Christians who are found to practice differently are put in prison and tortured. JEHOVAH Witness Church and its members are the first victims(since 1993). Then Pentecost Church became another target since 2001.


Eritrean Muslims are not different from Christians. The only recognized sect is Sunni. Any other Islamic sect is systematically oppressed and members are exposed to extremist or radical accusation which usually ends in arrest and disappearance.PFDJ Regime in Eritrea has given a recognition to Sunni Islam. Other sects of Islam are condemned and have no freedom to practice their religious rituals freely.

Many believers are arrested under the cover of Jihadists. And, those who do not want persecution are not openly declaring their sect. Instead, they are continuing their rituals within the umbrella of the recognized Sunni practices.

His Holiness Abune Antonios
Patriarch Abune Antonious

Freedom of religious practices is absent in Eritrea. Even those who got recognition are under strict control. Many religious leaders, including the Patriarch of Eritrean Orthodox Church, is under house arrest since 2006. And, contrary to the Church’s law, his position is replaced by other appointed Leader.

Other sects, like Sufism, are not officially recognized though there are many adherents since the birth of Eritrea as a colonized country. Sufi adherents are dominated by Sunnis. For a long time, they have no freedom of practicing their rituals.

As you can see in this youtube below, Sufi practitioners in Somali had similar challenges. But now, with the relative peace and freedom of religious practices, Sufi practices is reviving. I hope all religious institutions and beliefs to have full freedom very soon in a free and democratic Eritrea.

Eritreans deserve to exercise their belief systems freely without any fear of persecution, be it from the government or from any citizen.

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