Recently a member of ACN staff visited Eritrea to see ACN projects – having been trying to get into the country for five years.
We have been asked to keep their identity secret so that they can return to Eritrea.
“It was very risky going there, there was a real threat of being caught if they found out who we were. If they caught me, they could have put me in prison. The people who arranged for me would also be put in prison, accused of spying.
“As we left we had to be careful to hide the notes we had taken and any photos to be sure that we got out without attracting the suspicions of the authorities.
“At one point we travelled to an area where we didn’t have a permit and we thought security officials were going to catch us but fortunately it was a false alarm and we were able to pass by without being caught.
“The Catholic Church is unique in that it has refused control by the state. The Eritrean Orthodox have never recovered after Patriarch Antonios was forced from office and a government-approved substitute was put in his place.
“In spite of the relatively small number of Catholics, the Church plays a vital role in education, medical dispensaries, kindergartens, orphanages, home-craft centres (carpentry, knitting, craft, etc.) and other social work.”
In 1995 it was made illegal for religions to accept funds from abroad and because of this we cannot give details about Church projects in the country.
“Rarely if ever have I seen such spirituality among people who in the face of so much pain and hardship are willing to offer up their suffering for God. I sensed this even among boys as young as 10 whom I met when I visited a school.”