Two clerics have joined Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, in fasting in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, which faces a collapsing economic and political order and reports of a military alert amid fears of a coup - writes Hans Pienaar.
Dr Tutu made a call for support for the fast on South Africa's Radio 702 on 11 January 2009. Bishop Paul Verryn, who runs a refugee operation at the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa, to which up to 4 million Zimbabweans have fled, announced he would also fast. They were joined by Pastor Raymond Motsi of the Bulawayo Baptist Church in Zimbabwe.
Tutu said he was now fasting once a week. "If we would [only] have more people saying 'I will fast', maybe one day a week - just to identify myself with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," said Tutu in his interview.
In Geneva on 12 January, the church-backed Zimbabwe Advocacy Office said it was investigating a report by SW Radio that the daughter of Zimbabwe's vice-president, Joice Mujuru, had been implicated in illegal gold and diamond deals woven in different countries including Switzerland. The report said the vice-president herself was financing the deals.
The fasting by Tutu and the other clerics is intended to continue fostering awareness of Zimbabwe's plight under the rule of Robert Mugabe that is not internationally recognised. Civicus, a global civil society alliance, is planning civil action that will focus on South Africa's role in support of Mugabe.
"We need to up the ante a bit in terms of the types of activities that put pressure on the government," said Civicus acting chairperson Kumi Naidoo, a South African who is also co-chairperson of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty.
In a letter of support to Naidoo, Tutu said, "As the world's eye turns to the mass killings in Gaza, we must not ignore the ongoing deaths in Zimbabwe - [which are happening] not with bombs, but with starvation, disease and apathy. These deaths are no less deliberate than those perpetrated with arms."
* Read the full SW Radio transcript here: http://swradioafrica.com/pages/hotseat090109.htm
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]