Bakare denounces police for disrupting churches

15 May 2008

by Pat Ashworth

THE Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare, has denounced the “godless” behaviour of the police in their continuous disruption of church services, and has expressed grave concerns about the disregard of High Court orders.

He described as “gross misrepresentation” an announcement in the government-owned Herald newspaper that the deposed former bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, had been given “sole custodianship” of the diocesan properties.

Dr Bakare’s protest came before an incident on Sunday, when six women in the congregation of St Francis, Waterfalls, were beaten by police as they knelt to receive communion.

Police officers at other Anglican churches reportedly said that all those who did not choose to ally themselves to Nolbert Kunonga’s church must hold services in their own houses. At St Paul’s, Highfield, about 50 riot police descended on the church. Three parishioners were seriously beaten.

At St Columbus, Kuwadzana, 12 parishioners and their rector, the Revd Justin Matyatya, were arrested and held in police custody overnight. The churchwarden at Christ Church, Borrowdale, was interrogated for two hours before being released without charge. Dr Bakare said the incidents showed that “the police have become a law unto themselves.”

Reports are coming in that churches in other parts of Zimbabwe are being targeted by ZANU-PF. Christian Alliance, a loose grouping of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Churches, said in a statement: “People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the ‘wrong candidate’ . . . and, in some cases, people are murdered.”

Staff at two mission hospitals, the Driefontein Sanatorium and the Muvonde Hospital in Mvuma, are reported to have been beaten up by ruling-party supporters who accused them of voting for the opposition, says the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association.

Ecumenical News International reported last week that an Assemblies of God church in the southern Bubi district of Bulawayo was closed down after its pastor was attacked by ZANU-PF militants.

The director of Jesuit communications in Zimbabwe, Fr Oskar Wermter SJ, has said that although, under normal circumstances, the Church did not tell people who to vote for, these were not “normal circumstances”, and that voting for the dictator and his party was not a genuine option for a Christian.

The Catenians, an organisation of Roman Catholic men, are launching a fund-raising appeal to help provide water for people in Zimbabwe and southern Africa. Money raised from the appeal, “Give Water Life and Hope” will be channelled through CAFOD.

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