The Catholic Church in Eritrea says it is dismayed by the Eritrean Government’s response to the nationalization of twenty-nine health facilities across the country. In a statement translated from Tigrinya and made available to Vatican News through the office of the General Secretary of the Eritrean Catholic Secretariat, Abba Tesfaghiorghis Kiflom, entitled: “Clarification about the recent nationalization of the Catholic Church’s health Centers in Eritrea,” the Church leadership says it remains vehemently opposed to the unilateral takeovers.

The nationalization was done without any dialogue with Church authorities

“Though the Catholic Bishops have expressed their opposition to this measure, they have not yet received any response from the State authorities. On the other hand, some information has been passed on to the Mass Media which, apart from being decidedly erroneous or deliberately misleading, is confusing those who, far and near, are unable to verify its reliability. It is precisely for the benefit of the latter that we consider it our duty to offer the following clarifications and specifications,” the document reads. It continues, “Mr. Tajadin Abedel Aziz, (Eritrean Government) Director of the Public Relations Office in the Ministry of Health, in an interview with Asmara’s correspondent of Radio Voice of America on 12 June 2019 said, against the evidence of facts, (that the nationalization was) ‘a matter of administrative actions of delivery and not of closure or of nationalization of the Centers, or of intimidation of staff and employees.’… How then can one define behavior such as: taking unilateral decisions about our structures and personnel without any previous agreement on the matter, without any notice, without minimum dialogue with the legitimate superior authorities who own those structures, without any attempt to understand the spirit and purpose of such institutions?” the Church contests.

There was a climate of intimidation during the takeovers

The Church contends that it is meaningless to declare that this was not a question of nationalization. They also point to the intimidation used in taking over the health properties.

“While in some locations actions of force were involved, in other centers the staff were ordered to ‘get out of the way,’ the premises were sealed, and the staff was placed in a position where they were unable to attend to patients … Threatening words and bullying were spoken in various (health) centers. This was observed by people who, unexpectedly, found themselves involved during these deplorable events. When the staff on duty at our clinics were required to sign property transfer of the premises, and legitimately and conscientiously replied that such an act was not of their competence – as they were just mere executors of higher orders, and specified that such an act was the competence of the Church authorities – at this stage the reaction of those making the request was more of intimidation and, sometimes, of blandishment,” the Church statement narrates.

Read more at Vatican News. 

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