Eritrean Christian suffers mental trauma after being imprisoned for 13 years for his faith

(Wikimedia Commons/David Stanley)Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Cathedral in Asmara, Eritrea.

An Eritrean Christian is now suffering from mental trauma after enduring 13 years in prison, but despite his ordeal, he repeatedly refused to renounce his faith.

According to World Watch Monitor, Shiden, who became Christian in his late teens, was exposed to torture of different kinds, including months of solitary confinement in a very small cell.

His decision to become a Christian was considered dangerous because Eritrea's society is deeply suspicious and antagonistic towards evangelical Christians. Those who do not belong to the three mainline churches or Sunni Islam are often jailed, and Shiden had heard stories of the terrible suffering of Christians in prison, but he decided to take the risk anyway.

After joining military service at age 22, Shiden was arrested along with around 40 other Christians while worshipping in secret.

They were reportedly taken to a military prison in the southern desert city of Assab, where they endured intense heat during the day and extremely cold weather at night.

During his incarceration, he was made to suffer harsh conditions and guards often taunted him, asking, "Why don't you leave this religion of yours?"

Shiden said that he would respond to the guards, saying, "I won't leave the faith because I believe it and I live by what I believe. I served this country faithfully and honestly during my military service. When you sent me to work in the field, I did that without complaining. But my belief is my personal belief, and you have to respect that. But if you don't, then I am willing to pay for it."

In one occasion, prison officials presented him with two sheets of paper, asking him to choose whether he believes Jesus or not. He chose the sheet that indicated his belief in Christ, assuring his interrogators, "I will not leave this religion. So if you are going to keep me in the jail, that's OK. It's all the same to me."

Shiden was later moved to the general prison in Barentu, where he remained for the next 10 years. During that time, he was often put in solitary confinement for six months at a time in a small cell where he was not able to stretch his arms or even stand up straight.

After his release, he was sent back to national service, where he remained under close watch. When guards discovered sections of his Bible in his possession, he was sent again to solitary confinement for a period of three months.

Shiden, now 35, was eventually released, but he had difficulties returning to normal life due to the mental trauma that he suffered. He had been brought to tears when he told his brother John about some of the things that had happened to him in prison.

"I was so proud of him for not denying his faith through all of those years. But I could not believe the terrible suffering he had been put through," his brother said.

John noted that Shiden's situation was not an isolated case and that there are many other Christians like him who have been imprisoned in Eritrea for different lengths of time.

The situation of Christians in Eritrea has become so severe that Open Doors USA ranked the nation at No. 6 in the 2018 World Watch List of countries that were deemed to be the worst in the world when it comes to the persecution of believers.

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