Eritrea says Catholics the accusations of persecution are false.
‘We didn’t shut your hospitals. The state is secular’
ROME (ANSA) – ROME, 21 JUNE –
The handover of health centres run by the Catholic Church to the State, ordered in the past few days by the Eritrean Government, is not a form of repression of the freedom of worship, which is laid down and protected by law. This clarification comes with a statement from the Embassy of Asmara in Rome that disputes the news released on June 15th by the missionary agency Fides, according to which government officials showed up at the premises and asked managers to sign a document that states the passage of property. Faced with refusals by some managers, declared Fides, the health centres were shut and cleared to stop the continuation of medical care.
“Eritrea allows all confessions to exercise freely their belief, in compliance with law 73 of the 15th July 1995”, writes the Embassy, underlining that “because Eritrean society is multi-ethnic and multi-confessional the State of Eritrea is by definition a secular state”.
An answer to the accusations of father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest, champion of the rights of migrants and president of the Habeshia Agency. “Today it seems as though we were back in 1982, when the terror regime of Menghistu Hailemariam seized many properties of the Catholic Church, including convents, schools and health centres with brute force”, declared the clergyman, while Eritrean bishops expressed “deep bitterness” claiming that this event meant de facto to “expose the servants (of the Church, Ed. ) to persecution”.
But Asmara claimed its absolute correctness in the enforcement of the law, according to which “the plans for social development and social services are matters of the state and secularism, in which the Eritrean State recognises itself, implies a clear separation of roles, without freedom of worship being threatened”. With regards to the issue of the medical centres, the Embassy’s note states that “it is not a closure, but a change of management, in compliance with the law 73/1995”. (ANSA)