PRESS RELEASE: ERITREAN CATHOLIC GEEZ RITE CHAPLAINCY ArchDiocese of Toronto
Posted On September 18, 2019
Return all confiscated properties to the Eritrean Catholic Church so that it can continue its virtuous work of teaching and caring for Eritrea’s vulnerable and underserved.
Eritrea, named for the beautiful Red Sea coast it is situated on, is tragically a nation in peril. Eritrea’s current regime is a prolific human rights violator, imprisoning thousands of citizens and denying them freedom of mobility and of the press. The Eritrean Catholic Church’s health facilities and schools along with those of other religious groups have become the most recent casualties of the turbulent political climate that exists within Eritrea.
This is a call to action directed at the Canadian government in particular and the international community in general. This is a call for a maximum exertion of pressure on the Eritrean government so that it reopens closed Catholic run health facilities and schools. This call to action is on behalf of those affected by these unjust closures. The Eritrean Catholic Church has been rendering much appreciated educational and health services in Eritrea for more than a century.
The Eritrean Catholic Church’s health care services were being provided free of cost to patients and were accessible to all those in need. A total of 29 health facilities and clinics were run by The Eritrean Catholic Church, providing vital services to tens of thousands of Eritreans from all walks of life, Catholic and non Catholic alike. These clinics were shut down and confiscated by the Eritrean government 8 in December 2018 and 21 on June 12, 2019. The majority of people receiving health services were villagers from remote parts of Eritrea. Hence these services provided essential life-prolonging treatment.
In addition to closing health care facilities, the Eritrean government has sadly closed 7 secondary schools, five Catholic Secondary schools, one Faith mission secondary school and one Islamic Secondary school on September 03, 2019. In doing this, the Eritrean government has effectively denied the Catholic Church its inalienable right to both teach and care for the Eritrean people as it has done for over a century. The vast majority of the closed health care facilities and schools were located on church premises and within monasteries; therefore, with the closures, a vital link between The Catholic Church and the Eritrean people it serves has been abruptly severed. Further still, the confiscation and seizure of church administered schools and health care facilities have effectively added Eritrean Catholics to a long list of religiously persecuted groups within Eritrea.
In the spirit of human dignity and preservation of life, we, Catholics and Eritreans alike, reaffirm our call upon the Canadian government and the international community to exert maximum pressure on the Eritrean government to respect religious freedom and to immediately return all
confiscated properties to the Catholic Church so that it may continue its virtuous work of teaching and caring for Eritrea’s vulnerable and underserved.
Eritrean Catholic Geez Rite Chaplaincy Toronto
Eritrean bishops protest government seizure of Catholic schools
By Francis Njuguna, Catholic News Service
- September 19, 2019
Source: Catholic Register
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.