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The Nightingale sings of persecution in Eritrea

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Song of the Nightingale By Helen BerhaneA powerful new book telling the story of gospel singer Helen Berhane (below), who was imprisoned in a shipping container in the East African state of Eritrea and brutally tortured for her faith, has been launched by Christian organisation Release International.

Helen was detained for two years by the military junta in Eritrea, during which she was severely beaten and kept in a metal shipping container in the heat of the desert.

She and many other Christians who had been rounded up by the authorities were locked in the airless, unsanitary steel container, and left to bake in the desert by day and freeze by night.

She tells her story in Song of the Nightingale, which is being published with the support of Release International.  In it she describes the atmosphere inside the container:

“A single candle flickers, its flame barely illuminating the darkness. They never burn for more than two hours after the container door is locked: there is not enough oxygen to keep the flame alive any longer. It will go out soon.

“Despite the proximity of so many people, it is freezing cold. Condensation drips from the roof and slides down my cheek, and when it moistens my lips I taste rust. The air is thick with a dirty metallic tang, the ever-present stench of the bucket in the corner, and the smell of close-pressed, unwashed bodies.”

She continues: “ Sometimes I cannot believe that this is my life: these four metal walls, all of us corralled like cattle, the pain, the hunger, the fear. All because of my belief in a God who is risen, who charges me to share my faith with those who do not yet know him, and who I am forbidden to worship.

I think back to a question I have been asked many times over my months in prison: ‘Is your faith worth this, Helen?’

“And as I take a deep breath of the sour air ... I whisper the answer ‘Yes’.”

Song of the Nightingale by Helen Berhane with Emma Newrick is published by Authentic, price £7.99. Order it from Release International on 01689 823491.

(Photo: Release International)

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