Security agents have arrested and detained a Catholic bishop and two priests, confirmed to ACI Africa by a source who did not wish to be named for security reasons, but who confirmed the media reports of the arrest of Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim were exact.
“On October 15, security agents reported arrested Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim at Asmara International Airport after arriving from Europe, BBC News reported.”
Bishop Tsalim, 52, has been Bishop of the Segheneity Eparchy, located in central Eritrea since February 24, 2012.
Two priests from his diocese, Fr. Mihretab Stefanos, the parish priest of St. Michael’s Parish in the Segheneity Eparchy, and Abbot Abraham, a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, were also arrested a few days earlier. The three clerics are being held in Adi Abeto prison, according to Fides.
The clergy are accused of highlighting human rights abuses in Eritrea in their homilies, the source said, but that accusation has not been officially made.
“The human rights violations, the source added, include ‘imprisonment of parents (women and men), mobilization of young people by force etc. to the war fronts [the Tigray war, ed.], closing homes, and confiscation of the animals of those people who have refused to go to war.’”
In May, officials from several UK-based Christian entities expressed concern about “unjust and continuing” human rights abuses in Eritrea.
“In a letter sent to the Eritrean Ambassador in the United Kingdom and Ireland, officials of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Church in Chains - Ireland, Release Eritrea, Human Rights Concern - Eritrea, and the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom highlighted multiple indicators of human rights violations.”
“We remain concerned at the continuing unjust, arbitrary, and indefinite detention of tens of thousands of Eritrean citizens in harsh conditions, including hundreds of Christians imprisoned solely on account of their faith,” officials of the Christian entities said in their May 20 letter addressed to Ambassador Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus.”
The Christian leaders also said they were “dismayed by reports of Eritrean lives being lost in the war in neighboring Ethiopia, including those of conscripts and minors.”
In August, the Eritrean government took over the Hagaz Agro-Technical School (HATS), a Catholic learning institution that the Brothers of the Christian Schools (LaSalle Brothers) established and were running.”
The Hagaz Agro-Technical School “had been providing training in farming machinery, rearing of crops and animals, as well as soil conservation for the last 23 years,” the BBC reported.
The seizure is the latest in a series of government confiscations in Eritrea since 2019. The government is relying on a 1995 regulation that limits the activities of religious institutions to justify the confiscation of property.
The bishops unsuccessfully opposed the regulation and the illegal confiscations. The arrest of the Bishop of Segeneity appears as a new abuse of power attempting to intimidate the bishops who denounce the terrible conditions of the war in Tigray and the consequences that affect their faithful in their lives and in their property.