Monday, June 6, 2011

Kunonga Blamed for Persecution in Zimbabwe

By Matthew Davies,

Episcopal News Service
June 3, 2011

The 16 Anglicans who were illegally arrested in Zimbabwe this week for resisting eviction and protecting their homes from intruders associated with a rival church have been released on bail following a failed attempt by local police to embellish the details and augment the charges brought against them.

"The trumped-up charges were amended several times as they could not come up with charges that could stick," Bishop Chad Gandiya of the Diocese of Harare wrote in a June 3 e-mail to ENS. "First they were charged with unlawful entry, then that was changed to theft, and finally public nuisance. It's very sad indeed."

Gandiya, who was elected to lead the Harare diocese in May 2009, also bemoaned the treatment of some of the Anglicans detained, two of whom are diabetic and were refused medication. "Thank God that their sugar levels have now stabilized," he said, adding that one priest failed to sit a graduate exam because he was incarcerated.

Zimbabwe's Anglicans have faced repeated harassment and violence from President Robert Mugabe's police forced since renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga was officially excommunicated by the Church of the Province of Central Africa in May 2008.

A Mugabe ally, Kunonga still claims ownership of the diocese's Anglican churches and backs the persecution of the country's loyal Anglicans who are routinely intimidated and prevented from worshipping in their own church buildings.

Meanwhile, Mugabe continues to cling onto his 30-year rule as the country's infrastructure crumbles and its law and order deteriorates.

The Rev. Petero Sabune, Africa partnerships officer for the Episcopal Church, noted that June 3 marks the commemoration of the Ugandan martyrs who in 1886 marched to Namugongo singing songs of praise.

"They were united by their faith and they gave their lives with humility and fierce determination," he said. "Sadly the events of those days are being experienced by our brothers and sisters across our beloved continent of Africa. People gathering for worship are beaten and imprisoned in Harare ... Those martyrs of Uganda of long ago, gave us the seeds for a continent of thriving faith. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters currently living with fear that Jesus who ascended will be with them in their hour of need."

---Matthew Davies is an editor/writer of Episcopal News Service.

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