In June, Open Doors reported that the Eritrean government was closing Christian run health centres. Now the charity has heard that the all Catholic hospitals and health centres have been shut in Eritrea.
Eritrean police closed the country’s last open Christian run health facility in Zager about 30 km from Asmara, on Friday 5 July.
The police report said: “The nuns were told to leave the hospital immediately and were prevented from taking hospital equipment with them.” The hospital was providing maternity services and general medical assistance for the village.
On 21 June, the new UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Daniela Kravetz, stated that during the closures, soldiers were posted outside the Catholic health facilities, patients were ordered to go home, and health staff were threatened. She reported 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. By curtailing the activities of the Catholic Church, the Eritrean authorities are restricting the right of their citizens to enjoy quality health care.”
Kravetz also expressed serious concern over the arbitrary arrest and detention of members of Orthodox and Christian congregations in recent weeks.
The government arrested five Orthodox priests from the Debre Bizen monastery. The date of the arrests is unknown. The priests, three of whom over 70 years old, were arrested for allegedly opposing the government's interference in the affairs of the church.
Open Doors has received reports that around 30 Pentecostal Christians were arrested on 17 May during prayer meetings at different locations in Godeif, south of the capital Asmara. Earlier in May the charity also received reports that security agents arrested around 141 Christians, including 104 women and 14 children, during a private gathering in the Mai Temenai district of Asmara. Some of those arrested were reportedly taken to Adi Abeito prison, while others were held by the police. Around 50 of these detainees have been released, and the remaining individuals are said to still be in prison without charge.
The clampdown on Christians came after the country's four bishops wrote an open letter calling for genuine dialogue on peace and reconciliation in Eritrea. The government has denied that the closures are associated with this letter, saying instead they are in line with regulations introduced in 1995 that ban religious institutions from involvement in programmes with schools, hospitals, agriculture and the elderly.
Eritrea is number 7 on the Open Doors World Watch List. It is often referred to as the North Korea of Africa.
Eritrean Christians who aren’t members of state approved churches are considered agents of the West and a threat to the state. The government only recognises three Christian denominations, including the Eritrean Orthodox Church. An unknown number of Christians still suffer under indefinite and arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance; they are often held incommunicado and indefinitely, without trial - some have been held captive for over a decade. Many are forced to work long hours in commercial flower fields, and some are held in shipping containers in scorching temperatures.
Through strategic partnerships with the local church in Eritrea, Open Doors strengthens believers in the region by offering practical assistance to persecuted Christians.