STOP RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN ERITREA

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Stand in Solidarity with
Eritrean Bishops, Nuns, Clergy & People of Eritrea

In the month of June, 2019 the Eritrean PFDJ regime, led by Isaias Afwerki, confiscated all Hospitals, medical centers and clinics run by the Catholic Church. According to the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat communique, this year alone 21 healthcare centers were confiscated and in previous years 8 were nationalized; resulting in 29 healthcare centers forcibly seized by the Eritrean government. These healthcare centers were almost exclusively in rural areas and small towns, where government healthcare is virtually nonexistent. It is important to note that “approximately 200,000 patients a year seek medical treatments at Catholic medical centers in Eritrea (Fr. Mussie Zerai, Global Sisters Report)." The Catholic Church in Eritrea provided healthcare services to all citizens regardless of their religious background and it ran 20% of the country’s healthcare system. In the last two years, the government closed the Holy Savior Secondary School, a seminary preparatory high school jointly administered by the four Eparchies, and religious congregations in the capital city of Asmara. The Catholic Bishops, nuns, and clergy serve the most vulnerable members of the society: the sick, poor, the elderly, women and children, and run orphanages, also maternity wards all over Eritrea. The recent forcible seizure and closure of Catholic Church run hospitals and medical facilities has left patients stranded without medical treatments, many of them in need of dire medical attention. Simultaneously, the medical staff and administrators, which include the religious (nuns) and clergy were evicted and forcibly evacuated from the healthcare premises, where they resided. The steps taken by the Eritrean regime is counter institutive and insensitive to the needs of the citizens, especially the vulnerable. 

Through its social services arm, the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat (ERCS), the Catholic Church, in Eritrea has a long tradition of commitment to the human development; serving the people’s economic, social and health needs without discrimination or religious preference. However, the Eritrean regime has been running a low intensity persecution of the Catholic Church for more than 25 years; and the recent actions committed by the regime is not new to the Eritrean Catholic Church. Though the Eritrean regime claims to be secular; respecting religious freedom, and its stance towards religious liberty has been antagonistic. For example, the first targets of religious persecution were, the Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, 7th Day Adventists, etc. These denominations have had established Churches in Eritrea for decades. The Eritrean regime has also deposed the duly elected Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios (90 years old) and placed him under house arrest. Another notable figure, the honorable Sheikh Haji Musa Mohammednur, who was 93 years old, was also arrested, jailed by the Eritrean regime, and subsequently died in a prison, in Asmara, on March 1, 2018, for his resistance and strong stand against the regime´s oppressive policies. Yet the regime still denies interfering in religious affairs or committing religious persecution. When the regime has persecuted individual believers, Church institutions or other religious establishments; local resistance and international reaction has been very limited emboldening the PFDJ regime, led by Isaias Afwerki to make the next brazen move.   

We, Eritrean Americans residing in your district strongly condemn the shameless actions, committed by the Eritrean regime, against the Catholic Church; confiscating healthcare centers, which are used to provide vital services to the most vulnerable members of the Eritrean society.  We ask for strong measures to be taken against religious persecution of any and all religious faiths committed by the PFDJ regime, led by Isaias Afwerki. A year ago, Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace accord; however, the people of Eritrea have not seen any fruit following the agreement. In fact, the situation worsens and the youth continue to flee the country, due to the regime’s oppressive policies. This direction is dangerous and against centuries old religious freedom and tolerance in Eritrea. Unless there is international pressure to change its behavior, the regime, will continue its oppressive policies even more aggressively than ever; with unimaginable long-term consequences, paling the tragedy of Somalia, Yemen and Libya. We must not allow such illegal and immoral actions by the regime against the Catholic Church and any or all religious faiths practiced in Eritrea. Therefore, we urge you to take strong and unequivocal action against the PFDJ regime, led by Isaias Afwerki in Eritrea; and stand with those who are suffering and being terrorized. Religious freedoms, liberty and human rights of any accord should not be violated no matter where it takes place. Let us stand on the right side of history. We ask your respective offices to work on the following plan of actions:

1. Request the Eritrean regime to reverse its unlawful, inhumane, immoral action of closing and confiscating, Healthcare centers, clinics and hospitals run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea;

2. Free all individuals or groups incarcerated or placed under house-arrest due to their religious faith in Eritrea;

3. Respect and follow international human rights laws, religious freedoms & liberty, and implement the democratic rule of law in Eritrea.  

Sincerely, Eritrean American Ge'ez Rite Catholics



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