World churches' bodies call for urgent action on Zimbabwe

By agency reporter
24 Jun 2008

Two international ecumenical Christian bodies have called on the UN, the South African Development Community and the African Union "to increase [their] efforts to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe".

Emergency aid, postponement of the run-off election and the responsibility of the international community to intervene in protection of the people are amongst the main concerns.

In a joint letter issued in Geneva today, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) requested the three international bodies to pay "urgent attention to the humanitarian needs of the people of Zimbabwe, their freedom to exercise religion, the destabilization of the political situation and the need to end human rights abuses".

The joint letter refers to the need of "international intervention" in order to distribute food aid, as Zimbabweans face "the imminent threat of starvation in some areas". It also mentions the need for a political solution that "may involve a postponement of the election", as well as the importance of bringing perpetrators of violence to trial. "There can be no impunity", the letter says.

"We have learned from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters that some churches have been kept from offering worship while other church services have been violently dispersed. This situation, which is underreported in the media, is unacceptable and must receive urgent attention from the world community", states the letter signed by WCC general secretary Samuel Kobia and WSCF general secretary Michael Wallace.

The letter makes a point of reminding that "in extreme situations" the international community "has the duty […] to intervene in the internal affairs of a state in the interests and safety of the people", a principle known as "responsibility to protect".

Full text of the joint WCC-WSCF letter: http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6055

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