NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — Members of bishops’ conferences in East Africa condemned the Eritrea government’s seizure of health facilities belonging to the Catholic Church.

They also assured Eritrean bishops and Catholics of their solidarity after the seizure.

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa told the bishops it hoped God would “nurture you with the hope and give you the necessary courage and stamina to stand strong in defense of the rights of the church and God’s people.”

In mid-June, the Eritrean government confiscated all church-run clinics and health centers. Government security officers are said to have removed the staff from the health centers and closed them. Patients were ordered to go home and soldiers were deployed to guard the centers, the bishops said in a June 13 letter to the ministry of health. The church runs more than 20 clinics in Eritrea, and many are on the property of monasteries.

“The government can say it doesn’t want the services of the church, but asking for the property is not right,” Eritrean bishops said in the letter. The government had not responded by June 25.

AMECEA groups bishops from Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.