A Roman Catholic Archbishop has said he is ready to face bullets in anti-government street protests in President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
Pius Ncube, archbishop of the southern Bulawayo diocese who has called for a nonviolent uprising against Mugabe, told a news conference on Thursday that Zimbabweans must take to the streets over rights abuses by Mugabe's government.
It comes as Mugabe faces international criticism over a crackdown on the opposition.
"The biggest problem with Zimbabweans is they are cowards, myself included, but as for me I am ready to stand in front, even of blazing guns," he said.
"If only Zimbabweans are prepared to stand, so am I prepared to stand ... we are not going to be bullied," Ncube said.
Ncube accused the government of maintaining an "ugly oppressive" system and denying citizens basic rights.
"Human rights are God-given. No one has a right to just trample over them ... people are justified to practice non-violent civil disobedience," Ncube said.
"Starvation stalks our land and government does nothing to correct our situation. People are angry now and should stand up, fill the streets and demand that this man (Mugabe) steps down now," he added.
Ncube was speaking at a news conference called by Christian Alliance, a group of church leaders who are part of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, the organisers of a prayer meeting at which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and 49 others were arrested almost two weeks ago.
The opposition officials have said they were severely assaulted in police custody and images of a bruised and cut Tsvangirai sparked a world outcry against Mugabe's government.
The government has cracked down on protests using strict security laws which bar political gatherings without police clearance.