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Church leaders ask UN to help Anglicans in Zimbabwe

by Pat Ashworth

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Displaced: a mother and child last Saturday in a camp set up for foreigners outside the Primrose Methodist Church, east of Johannesburg. Thousands of Zimbabweans are too scared to return to their communities AP

Displaced: a mother and child last Saturday in a camp set up for foreigners outside the Primrose Methodist Church, east of Johannesburg. Thousands of Zimbabweans are too scared to return to their communities AP

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, appealed directly last week to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, for intervention over the sustained campaign against the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

The two leaders demanded in a telephone call to know what the UN Security Council and regional leaders in the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) were doing to protect worshipping Anglicans from being intimidated and beaten in police-force attacks on churches across Harare.

A joint statement, issued by the Archbishops after speaking with Mr Ban, described harassment and intimidation as Anglicans’ “daily bread”.

They said that the continuing failure to enforce court orders permitting Anglicans to worship in their cathedral church in Harare and other parishes was “a clear violation of Article 18 of the UN Charter on Human Rights which expressly gives people the right to worship and freedom of thought”.

Zimbabweans were denied other fundamental human rights, the two leaders said, not least the “right to assemble and speak and take part in free and fair elections”.

They continued: “Given this political climate of fear, and now the intimidation of our Anglican brothers and sisters, especially in Harare, we are concerned to know what the UN Security Council and SADC regional leaders are doing to defend Mothers’ Union meetings at churches, and prevent people being torn away from altar rails on the orders of ruling party or state officials.”

The Archbishops pleaded for “immediate high-level SADC and UN mediation and monitoring to ensure a free and fair presidential run-off, and the protection of its citizens from state-organised violence.

“This is not simply a matter of vote-rigging: the events of the last ten days have sharpened everyone’s concern, as we hear of murderous attacks on legitimate political activists and now also brutality towards men, women, and children meeting for Christian worship. We urge increased international pressure and effective mediation to prevent further suffering.”

The Bishops of the Province of Central Africa have also issued a statement about Zimbabwe, expressing their deep concern and dismay at the escalation of violence. In a pastoral letter that indicates a growing confidence and unanimity since the expulsion of two former members of the Province, Nolbert Kunonga and Elson Jakazi (see below), the Bishops appeal for constitutional rights to be upheld.

“We are alarmed that a government can perpetrate irresponsible acts against its citizens by destroying people’s homes, torturing and killing for the simple reason that they did not vote ‘correctly’. We fear that the presidential run-off elections on 27 June 2008 could witness a repeat of retribution of those who would have not voted ‘correctly’,” say the Bishops.

They call for “the perpetrators of these immoral and criminal activities to respect the rule of law which safeguards and preserves human life and dignity. The reports that people are being maimed, killed, and denied decent burials paint a contrary picture to our African understanding of Ubuntu.”

The Bishops say the violation of human rights over worship “mirrors the persecution of Christians of the Early Church, and in this context we remind the perpetrators that then, as now, God still triumphs over evil.”

As the Church Times went to press it was reported that the Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had been detained by police while campaigning for the Presidential election.

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