C of E Archbishops make joint plea on Zimbabwe

By agency reporter
25 Apr 2008

The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement in support of the strong voice of fellow Christians in Zimbabwe, as the country's post-election crisis appears to be worsening.

The archbishops have called for greater efforts on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe who are "left even more vulnerable to conflict heaped upon poverty amd the threat of national disintegration. It is therefore crucial that the international community act to bring a mediated settlement to this political crisis so that the social and economic and spiritual crisis of the country can be addressed."

In a statement which responds to the recent calls by church leaders in Zimbabwe and South Africa, the archbishops also committed themselves to an international day of prayer for Zimbabwe this Sunday (27 April 2008) in all Christian denominations "as part of a search for increased solidarity and justice for the people of Zimbabwe."

In their statement, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu warn that without action "continuing political violence and drift could unleash spiraling communal violence, as has been seen elsewhere in the Continent where early warning systems or the international community failed to act in time."

The archbishops also echoe the recent concerns of Church leaders in Zimbabwe of state sponsored violence against ordinary Zimbabweans: "Faithful men, women and young people who seek better governance in either political or church affairs continue to be beaten, intimidated or oppressed."

Commenting on the continued delays of the announcement of results for the parliamentary and presidential elections the archbishops say: "The current climate of political intimidation, violence, vote rigging and delay has left the presidential election process without credibility. Now the people of Zimbabwe are left even more vulnerable to conflict heaped upon poverty and the threat of national disintegration."

The archbishops call for renewed efforts by the Government of South Africa, the United Nations and SADC to intervene in the crisis in Zimbabwe and also called for a world wide embargo on weapons sales to Zimbabwe.

The full text of the statement is as follows:

Those of us who witness the events in Zimbabwe from a distance are bound to approach this crisis with a degree of foreboding and sorrow. Independent Zimbabwe promised much and was a beacon of hope and representative democracy in post-colonial Africa. But as members of the Body of Christ we also know what the Lord requires of us in terms of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God in all times and in all places. So it is with this in mind that we as Primates and Bishops of the Church of England speak now in solidarity with our brother bishops in Zimbabwe and fellow bishops and other church leaders of the region. The ecumenical calls for action from within Zimbabwe in recent days must be heard and it is these voices we seek to support.

They rightly praise the bravery and endurance of the people of Zimbabwe throughout its protracted suffering and its quest for representative democracy and peaceful national political life; they call for true election results to be published and they speak of a dreadful fear of political violence possibly escalating to the horrific levels seen elsewhere on the African continent. They call for immediate, concerted and effective action by the government of South Africa, SADC and other regional organs and the UN to mediate and intervene as needed. Continuing political violence and drift could unleash spiralling communal violence, as has been seen elsewhere in the Continent where early warning systems or the international community failed to act in time.

Faithful men, women and young people who seek better governance in either political or church affairs continue to be beaten, intimidated or oppressed as was the recent Mothers' Union gathering in Mbare. Anglicans can not worship in their Cathedral in Harare and Mothers' Union groups can not now gather without fear of violence or intimidation against them as in Mbare.

We join in particular the call from the heads of Christian denominations in Zimbabwe and our brother Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, for the government of South Africa, the SADC region and the United Nations to act effectively. There must be an immediate arms embargo and any ships carrying arms must be recalled.

A year ago we committed ourselves, with the Anglican Archbishop of the province, to work with the bishops of Zimbabwe to support those who spoke on behalf of the poor and marginalised in that country and to denounce those that would not leave ministers of the gospel free to serve them. As we have just heard one bishop say, "It is Zimbabweans who are suffering at the hands of Zimbabweans. The political parties must protect the people who are voting."

The current climate of political intimidation, violence, vote rigging and delay has left the presidential election process without credibility. Now the people of Zimbabwe are left even more vulnerable to conflict heaped upon poverty and the threat of national disintegration. It is therefore crucial that the international community act in support of regional efforts to bring a mediated settlement to this political crisis so that the social and economic and spiritual crisis of the country can be addressed. We commend the efforts of governments and agencies actively seeking to end the crisis and pray that those whose efforts have seemed lacklustre to renew their commitment as fellow Christians, Africans and members of the human family and international community.

Churches across England have been praying for Zimbabwe before, during and after the polls. Agencies and dioceses from the UK have worked ably to support partners and parishes. We join with those now calling for an international day of prayer for Zimbabwe this Sunday (April 27) as part of a search for increased solidarity and justice for the people of Zimbabwe at home and in the UK. Ecumenically, and as part of a broad based coalition, we must work to build a civil society movement that both creates political will and gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence.

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