Eritrea (MNN) — Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot was wrongfully imprisoned in Eritrea for over a decade. Christians around the world prayed fervently for Pastor Oqbamichel’s release, but it seemed the Eritrean government would not budge.

Today, however, we rejoice to hear that Pastor Oqbamichel has been finally freed from prison, according to The Voice of the Martyrs Australia. He is currently in need of medical care.

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “Many pastors [in Eritrea] have been arrested. Many Christians have been arrested. Typically, however, they’re not held as long as Pastor Oqbamichel was… We don’t know exactly why he was released at this time. Why not a year ago? Why not a year from now? We don’t know what the logic behind that is — or if there is any logic behind it.”

Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot (Photo courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs Australia)

Pastor Oqbamichel was the senior pastor of the Kale Hiwot (Word of Life) Church. His case garnered international attention in 2003 when he became the first senior church leader to be arrested in Eritrea for religious activities. Since then, Pastor Oqbamichel has been in and out of prison until he was jailed long-term in 2007.

“Eritrea is a country that has gone through a real crackdown against the Church since 2002. The government actually closed all of the Evangelical churches in Eritrea. [They] basically called in the church leaders and said, ‘Your churches can’t meet anymore.’ Every Christian activity after that became illegal.”

Open Doors ranks Eritrea on their World Watch List as the sixth worst country for Christian persecution.

Over the past several years, thousands of other Christians like Pastor Oqbamichel have been jailed in Eritrea for their faith. While we praise God for Pastor Oqbamichel’s release, your prayers are still needed.

“One of the things that’s amazing is the courage that it takes to continue to serve Christ when you know you could go to prison…. None of these Christians has ever actually even been charged with a crime. None of them has had a trial. None of them has gotten a lawyer or been allowed to present their case. They just get arrested and they kind of disappear.”

Nettleton offers this prayer: “Lord, give the Christians in Eritrea that kind of courage. Help them to be bold in spite of the risk, in spite of what they know could happen.”

(Screen capture courtesy of Prayercast)

Please pray also for the families of those who have been arrested for their faith. Ask God to draw near to the families missing their loved ones in prison. And pray for others in Eritrea who are not Christians to come to know Jesus as their Savior.

“I just hope that people will pray for the country of Eritrea. This is a country that a lot of Americans couldn’t find on a map…. So it’s a country we don’t think about a lot. It’s a country we don’t hear about a lot. But it is a country where it is very, very hard to be a Christian.”

The Voice of the Martyrs exists to encourage and equip the persecuted Church around the world. Click here to learn more about VOM’s ministry and how you can support them!