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Eritrean bishops say seizure of Catholic schools is ‘hatred against the faith’

September 17, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Asmara, Eritrea, Sep 17, 2019 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- Seven religious schools in Eritrea, four of them sponsored by the Catholic Church, have been seized by the country’s government this month. Catholic bishops in the country say the move was motivated by “hatred against the faith.”

“If this is not hatred against the faith and against religion what else can it be?” Eritrea’s bishops asked in a Sept. 4 letter addressed to the Minister of Public Education, Semere Re’esom.

The seven schools seized by the government include three run Protestant and Muslim groups, according to Comboni Catholic missionaries serving in the area. The schools have been nationalized, and will reportedly now be run by the country’s education ministry.

The Eritrean government has also seized Church-run health facilities.

“The actions that are being taken against our educational and health institutions are contrary to the rights and to the legitimate freedom of the Church,” the bishops wrote in their Sept. 4 letter.

The bishops also suggested that the government raise to them any objections to the way in which Catholic schools and hospitals are administered in Eritrea.

“If there are situations that need to be corrected or adjusted, not only is it good, but even the only viable way, in order for this to take place in a context of an open and constructive dialogue,” the bishops wrote.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

It is believed the seizures are retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration.

The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.
Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.

A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.

Catholics make up 4 percent of Eritrea’s population.

ACI Africa contributed to this report.

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Bishops across Africa condemn ‘xenophobic’ attacks in South Africa

September 16, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Johannesburg, South Africa, Sep 16, 2019 / 09:10 am (CNA).- A wave of deadly attacks targeting African foreign nationals in South Africa has caught the attention of national and regional Church leaders, as affected countries have started repatriating their citizens from South Africa. 

“It is with dismay that we take note of the recent upsurge in violence against foreign nationals,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement earlier this month.

“We are facing a rising tide of hatred and intolerance, no difference to the rising tide of hatred in Nazi Germany,” the bishops added.

“If we do not take urgent action to stop it (xenophobic attacks), there will be nothing left.”

“This is not the work of a few criminal elements,” the bishops said of the recent spate of attacks against Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa. At least 12 people have been killed in recent weeks, and hundreds have been arrested for their part in riots demonstrating against foreigners.

“It is xenophobia, plain and simple,” the bishops said.
We Africans must not lose our characteristic love of humanity, the respect for the sanctity of life and solidarity,” Nigeria’s Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, president of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), said last week.

“Nigeria and South Africa must peacefully resolve this unfortunate incident and stop its aggravation,” Badejo told ACI Africa.

The Zambian bishops’ conference has cautioned Zambians not to retaliate against South Africans in Zambia, urging “all Zambians to restrain themselves from any acts of violence and vengeance against South African nationals and their property or business.”

The Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa has also added their voice to the matter, expressing their disappointment about the situation in one of Africa’s most industrialized nations.

“The deplorable actions that we have witnessed cannot be condoned in any way nor can they be hidden behind words that hide the real terror of xenophobia,” IMBISA said.

“We implore the home nations of those affected, not to raise the stakes by responding in revenge with violence,” the Church leaders of IMBISA added. The organization includes bishops from Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria are among the African countries that have considered repatriating their citizens from South Africa, with reports indicating hundreds of Nigerians successfully repatriated already.

Amid the attacks in South Africa, South Africa’s High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, and its mission in Lagos have been closed, as the diplomatic staff feel threatened by the possibility of retaliation.

This is not the first time South Africa has experienced such violence. Xenowatch African Centre for Migration & Society, which has been monitoring xenophobia in the country, reports similar peaks in xenophobic attacks in 2008 and 2015.

Xenophobia in South Africa is often sparked by accusations that migrants take away jobs from South Africans. As a result, foreigners, especially Africans, have been targeted, with reports of some deaths and destruction of property.

A version of this story was first reported by CNA’s partner agency, ACI Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.

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Moroccan woman jailed on suspicion of procuring abortion

September 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Rabat, Morocco, Sep 11, 2019 / 02:58 pm (CNA).- A Moroccan journalist has been jailed for allegedly procuring an abortion and for fornication. The country’s penal code bars abortion except in cases when the mother’s life is endangered.

Hajar Raissouni, 28, was arrested Aug. 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat, AFP reported. Also arrested were her fiance, Rifaat al-Amin, and a doctor, nurse, and secretary from the obstetrics-gynecology clinic.

Her trial was due to begin Sept. 9, but has been postponed to Sept. 16 following protests.

All five are being held until next week’s hearing.

Raissouni writes for Akhbar Al-Yaoum, which is reportedly critical of the Moroccan government.

Prosecutors have said her arrest has “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist,” but some worry it is politically motivated.

Raissouni could face as much as two years imprisonment if found guilty.

The doctor, nurse, and secretary have been charged with carrying out and complicity in abortion, and face up to 10 years imprisonment, The Independent reported.

Saad Sahli, a lawyer for Raissouni and al-Amin, said that Raissouni had been receiving treatment for internal bleeding at the clinic where she was arrested.

After her arrest, Raissouni was taken to hospital where she was given a gynecological exam, another of her lawyers said, according to The Independent.

Prosecutors say there were indications of pregnancy and that she had received a “late voluntary abortion.”

Rabat officials have also indicated the clinic where the five were arrested if being surveilled, after reports that abortions are regularly procured there.

Raissouni and al-Amin have been religiously, but not legally, married, according to AFP.

Sunni Islam is the established religion of Morocco.

According to a group that support abortion rights, most abortion-related arrests in the country involve medical officials, and only rarely do they include the women who procure abortions.

In 2018, Moroccan courts tried more than 14,500 people for debauchery; 3,048 for adultery; 170 for homosexuality; and 73 for abortions, AFP reported.

Brunei, another Muslim country, adopted a penal code in April that punishes anyone who commits qatl (homicide) on a fetus by intentionally causing its miscarriage with diya (monetary compensation to the child’s heirs) and with up to 15 years imprisonment.

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