The Church Under Growing Pressure in the African Nation of Eritrea

Source: FSSPX News

Asmara, the capital of Eritrea

In his account published on January 13, 2018, by the press agency Fides, Fr. Mussie Zerai, who spent years serving as a chaplain of the Eritreans in Europe, denounces the persecution of “religious confessions and, in particular, the Catholic Church” by the president-dictator Issayas Afewerki, in office since 1993.


The priest says the objective of the regime is “to try to prevent the influence (of religion) on society: not by prohibiting worship, but social activities”. 

He explains:

since 1995, there has been a law in force in the country according to which the State wants to carry out all social activities. Therefore, the latter cannot be carried out by private or even by religious institutions. So far, the law has been applied in a bland manner....In the last few months, however, there has been an acceleration.

Public officials have closed down five Catholic clinics. In the city of Asmara, the capital, the minor seminary has been closed.

“In Xorona, for example, they closed the only dispensary in operation that was run by Catholics,” recounts Fr. Zerai.

In Dekemhare and Mendefera, the authorities have banned the activity of Catholic medical centers by stating that they were a duplication of state ones. In reality, public facilities do not work: they do not have medicines, they cannot operate because they do not have suitable equipment and often not even electricity.

Eritrea, a small country with a population of six million in the Horn of Africa, obtained its independence in 1993 after thirty years of war against neighboring Ethiopia. According to a report from the NGO Amnesty International, published in 2013, the country’s political conditions are worthy of the worst Communist dictatorships: political prisoners, religious persecutions, deplorable prison conditions, a single political party, and child soldiers. According to Fr. Mussie Zerai, the situation does not seem likely to improve.