The Catholic Bishops of Ireland have joined churches, faith groups and human rights oranisations around the world in calling on the President of Zimbabwe - who was educated as a Catholic - to change direction and respect the will of the people for change.
In a pastoral letter, they write: "We wish to express our deepest concern and dismay at the ever-worsening political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. We wish to register our solidarity with the Bishops and the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle against the forces of oppression."
The Irish Catholic Bishops point out that their colleagues in Zimbabwe have said: "The confrontation in our country has now reached a flashpoint. As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever-harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture. In our judgement, the situation is extremely volatile". (God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed, Pastoral Letter of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, 5 April 2007)
In the light of what theycall "the current grave humanitarian and political crisis", the Bishops of Ireland are:
* Calling on the Zimbabwean government to address the crisis of governance and leadership as outlined in the bishops' pastoral letter of the 5 April 2007.
* Calling on the Zimbabwean government to provide urgently needed shelter and food for its population and to facilitate the efforts of aid agencies including those sponsored by the Churches, to provide humanitarian and development assistance to the dispossessed.
* Calling on the Irish people to continue their support for aid agencies such as Trócaire [the Catholic relief and developemnt group] in their work to alleviate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis.
The bishops say: "In issuing this statement, we are aware of the long history of friendship which unites Irish people with Zimbabweans, which is due in no small measure by the ongoing dedicated work of Irish missionaries in partnership with the people of Zimbabwe. In this respect, we are conscious of the widespread regard for the memory of the late Irish Carmelite and former Bishop of Mutare, Donal Lamont, who was fearless in his stand for justice and civil rights and who did so much to advance the cause of independence in Zimbabwe."
They conclude: "We join with Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his support for the Bishops of Zimbabwe in their call for prayer and a shared commitment for the common good as the only way forward for the suffering and oppressed people of Zimbabwe."