THE excommunicated former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, gave the opening reading and led the prayers at the swearing-in of the new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, last week. He was described as “Bishop Kunonga of the Anglican Church” in television news reports in the country.
Objections from the opposition party, the MDC, to Kunonga’s invitation are reported to have been ignored. The disgraced bishop, who still faces charges, including incitement to murder, and whose supporters continue to occupy churches and diocesan buildings, read from Ezekiel 37, the story of the dry bones.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported: “The country’s battered economy and the humanitarian crisis across the country, Kunonga said, was allegorical to the state of affairs in ancient Iraq referred to in the Bible, trusting in divine intervention for the immediate turnaround of fortunes following the formation of the inclusive government.”
In the same week, the Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare, and his wife, Ruth, discovered that emails purporting to be from Dr Bakare had been sent to people in countries he had recently visited. “The letters were asking for support for me, who was allegedly sick, and were signed with Sebastian’s name,” Mrs Bakare said on Tuesday.
Recipients had been unsure whether the emails had come from the couple, she said. “The style and religious language — talking about the Almighty, and trying to sound very religious and Christian — were not what we would normally use in an email. Emails usually stick to business.” One recipient responded cautiously to the email, offering prayers but asking for more details.
An immediate response came back from “Diocese of Harare”, an email address that has been retained by Mr Kunonga, along with the traditional PO Box number. The sender, believed to be Mr Kunonga, elaborated on a trip to minister in Uganda, where Mrs Bakare, he said, had been admitted to hospital with renal failure. Money was needed for her treatment, it was alleged, which would cost thousands.
“We are not surprised in a way, though it came as a bit of a shock,” Mrs Bakare said. “We know they have forged letters before. These are criminal activities, and this is the nature of the beast, if you like. We want to believe that it is coming to an end.” The couple have written to USPG and other friends in the Anglican Communion to warn of the forgeries. “Fortunately, I’m really well,” Mrs Bakare said.
People were still being treated for cholera in many of the small towns, she said. Churches, charities, and the World Health Organisation have been supplying water-purification tablets, but the situation is acknowledged as unlikely to improve until the whole water-system is attended to. People using boreholes are also reported to be becoming ill.
The Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion have called for Anglican churches to observe Ash Wednesday, 25 February, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. The Church of the Province of Central Africa will distribute food and material sent by parishes, and financial aid is to be channelled through national Churches’ relief and development agencies, or through the Anglican Communion Office.
Caritas Internationalis, the international co-ordinating body for Catholic charities, was distributing essential items after collections for Zimbabwe that were held at RC churches across southern Africa on Sunday. Caritas is appealing for $7 million to help a quarter of a million people avoid starvation, and to provide healthcare and clean water to 16,000 homes.
A recent survey by ComRes which asked “What does it mean to ‘turn the other cheek’?” found that most Christians thought it would be justifiable to send troops into Zimbabwe: 51 per cent said yes, 29 per cent said no, and 20 per cent were undecided.