Eritrea’s Catholic Church ‘dumbfounded’ by school seizures

The Catholic Church in Eritrea has said it is “dumbfounded” by the confiscation by the authorities of its schools and health centres.

Last week, seven secondary schools run by religious groups were seized by the government – three months after 22 Catholic-run clinics were taken away.

St Joseph’s School in Keren, run by the Catholic La Salle brothers, is one of the schools affected

The government says that the seizures are in line with regulations they introduced in 1995, which limit the activities of religious institutions.

In a letter addressed to the education ministry, the church leaders said their requests to discuss the matter had been ignored.

Church institutions had been providing social care and services across the country since 1890, the letter said.

“The decision to close institutions which have provided such significant contributions has dumbfounded all. No-one can see any plausible explanation for these actions.”

The letter especially mentioned how the church had helped young people, hinting that the confiscation by the government of schools and clinic might prompt more youngsters to flee the country.

The UN estimates that hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the one-party state where indefinite national service can trap people in poverty.

Roman Catholics make up about 4% of Eritrea’s population – and the church is only one of four religious groups allowed to operate in Eritrea, along with the Eritrean Orthodox and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and Sunni Islam groups.

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