NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — Eritrean bishops protested the government’s seizure of Catholic schools and asked that the church be enabled to continue its educational and health services.
“If this is not hatred against the faith and against religion, what else can it be?” Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of Asmara, Bishop Thomas Osman of Barentu, Bishop Kidane Yebio of Keren and Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim of Segheneity said in a letter to Eritrea’s minister of public education.
“Our voice of protest” is raised again at the government’s “arbitrary and unilateral measures,” the bishops said, noting that the closure of its schools follows the seizure of its clinics and other medical facilities in June.
“Considering that the actions that are being taken against our educational and health institutions are contrary to the rights and to the legitimate freedom of the church and heavily limit the exercise of the postulates of faith, mission and social services, we ask that the recent resolutions are reviewed and the consequent course of action promptly stopped,” the bishops said.
The Most Holy Redeemer Secondary School of Asmara’s seminary was closed two years ago, with three other secondary schools closed in September; one of the secondary schools includes a primary school.
The bishops said in June that all health facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea — more than 20, with many on the property of monasteries — had been seized by the government.
In their letter to the minister, Semere Re’esom, the bishops asked that the church be allowed to continue its “precious and highly appreciated services to the people.”
If the government seeks changes to the way these institutions are run, there should be “open and constructive dialogue,” they said, noting that the church has always sought dialogue “on everything concerning the situation of our church and our nation.”
The Catholic Church makes up about 5% of Eritrea’s population of 6 million people.
In April, the bishops angered the government by releasing a pastoral letter calling for a national reconciliation process to go along with respect for human rights and religious freedom.
Ruled by President Isaias Afwerki since 1993, Eritrea has been strongly criticized by human rights groups, especially over reports of detention without trial, open-ended military conscription and bans on some faiths. Regulations introduced in 1995 limit any developmental activities of religious institutions, including schools, hospitals, agricultural projects and sponsoring education for vulnerable children.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country in recent years, with many making perilous journeys through deserts and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103