.- Bishops in Eritrea are responding to their government’s call for priests and seminarians to serve in the army amid continued fears that the border dispute with Ethiopia will erupt into violence.
Catholic bishops from the east African country, bordering Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Red Sea, and have written twice to Eritrea’s government demanding that clergy be exempt from the national service required for men aged under 40.
According to reports from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the government has so far ignored the letters from the country’s three Catholic bishops who have explained that service in the armed forces is “not in accordance” with the role of the clergy.
Despite Catholics representing a small minority in a country dominated by the Eritrean Orthodox Church and Islam, their role in education and social support has given the bishops courage to speak out.
UN peacekeepers have been controlling the border since the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended in 2000, but the UN is due to withdraw some of its 3,000 troops, causing concern about future stability.