The Methodist and United Reformed Churches have together voiced their concern about increasing levels of violence and political intimidation, linked to the delay in announcing the result of Zimbabwe’s presidential election.
Commenting on the precarious situation, the Rev Dr Stephen Orchard, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, said: "The Zimbabwe Election Commission owes it to the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe to announce the presidential result without further delay, to enable people to begin the urgent task of rebuilding their shattered lives and economy."
He continued:"We condemn the campaign of violence and intimidation that has been embarked upon by members of the ruling party, following the announcement of the parliamentary election results. We also believe that people who hold power in any country have a first duty to care for the poor and vulnerable rather than for themselves."
Reflecting on the escalating humanitarian crisis, the General Secretary of the Methodist Church, the Rev David Deeks, commented: "The impact on the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans has been immense. The people of Zimbabwe appear to have voted for change and the leaders of Southern African states bear a huge responsibility to ensure that the will of the people is respected. If that doesn’t happen, the crisis in Zimbabwe could have an increasingly devastating impact on the entire region."
The two churches expressed their solidarity and support in prayer and action with their partner churches and agencies in Zimbabwe and pledged to continue working together to achieve peace, justice and prosperity there. They illustrated the plight of Zimbabweans with statistics, including:
INFLATION In 1987 inflation averaged 11.9 percent. It surged to an official record of 100,586 percent in January 2008, but economic experts say the real rate is much higher.
LIFE EXPECTANCY Average life expectancy dropped from 63 years in 1990 to 37.3 years in 2005, according to World Bank and United Nations figures.
UNEMPLOYMENT Estimated at about 80% of the working population.
The Methodist Church has about 295,000 members and 800,000 people are connected with the Church. It has some 5,800 churches in Britain, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.
The United Reformed Church comprises 100,00 people in 1,600 congregations. It has brought together English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists and members of the Churches of Christ. Worldwide, more than 70 million Christians are members of the Reformed family of churches, the largest Protestant tradition. The name ‘Reformed’ is used because the churches began to emerge with reform movements in the sixteenth century.
Along with Baptists, the Methodists and the URC are the largest Free Church denominations in Britain.