On June 12, 2019 the Eritrean authorities ordered the seizure of all Catholic Church-managed health centers. As of July 9 2019, the Catholic News Agency reported that as many as 29 Catholic hospitals, health centers and clinics have been confiscated by the government.
The Vatican News reports Daniela Kravetz, the UN Special Rapporteur saying that “The seizure of these health facilities will negatively impact the right to health of the affected populations, in particular, those in remote rural areas.” Ms. Kravetz also explained that “By curtailing the activities of the Catholic Church, the Eritrean authorities are restricting the right of their citizens to enjoy quality health care.”
Aid to the Church in Need reports a comment on the situation by Franciscan Father Zerai that “There is no justification for the actions of the regime. It punishes those who are taking care of the poorest of the poor”, adding that “More than 200,000 people receive treatment each year at health care facilities run by the Church. He notes further that “Most of the patients weren’t Catholics, but Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and members of other religions. Many facilities are located in the remote areas.”
Eritrea’s bishops see the seizure as an attack on their fundamental rights of religious liberty and the violation of their right “to love others and to do good to them”; a measure that prevents the church from “fulfilling the obligations that come from the supreme commandment of brotherly love”
We have also learned from some of the sisters that these health facilities are run by Catholic nuns, most of whom are missionary congregations. In one instant a convent of the Daughters of St. Ann near the capital city, Asmara was also confiscated along with the health facility by the government. There is a growing fear that the government will also confiscate the Catholic schools, if nothing is done to stop him.
Let us join our brothers and sisters in Eritrea to pray for their right to freedom of religion and peaceful co-existence.