CWNews.com - Eritrea’s human rights record came under the scrutiny of the United Nation Human Rights Council on December 1. Some 20,000 political prisoners there-- including 3,000 Christians-- are imprisoned by a regime known for torturing its opponents.

Colonized by Italy, Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 and eventually annexed, leading to a decades-long civil war. Eritrea regained its independence in 1993 under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki, a Marxist who received his military training in Mao Zedong’s China. Afwerki remains the totalitarian nation’s leader today. Reporters Without Borders deems Eritrea’s treatment of press freedom the worst in the world.

A longtime Christian area-- local bishops were part of an Oriental Orthodox Church that region ceased communion with the Holy See following the Council of Chalcedon in 451-- the nation of 5.5 million is now half Muslim, 30% Eritrean Orthodox, and less than 4% Eastern Catholic. The government recognizes the existence only of Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Church; according to the State Department, it systematically arrests and imprisons other believers, in some cases reportedly making their conversion to Eritrean Orthodoxy, obtained under torture, as a condition for release.

Official recognition does not provide immunity from persecution. In 2005, the government appointed a layman to administer the Eritrean Orthodox Church, and the following year, the Church’s patriarch was deposed. In 1998, the government took over Catholic schools and health clinics; last year, it took over all Catholic Church property in the nation’s capital.

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Teachings of Christ

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 ESV)

Theophany

At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge sing praise to You: * “You have come, and You have appeared , O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

What, then, are the things which are being prepared for those who wait for Him? The Creator and Father of the ages, the All-holy One, Himself knows their greatness and beauty. Let us then strive to be found among the number of those that wait, that we may receive a share of the promised gifts.

St. Clement of Rome