The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Photo: UN News/Lou Rouse
Harare, Zimbabwe – Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Oct.10 met Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and asked him to intervene to stop attacks on Anglicans by allies of an excommunicated bishop who has seized church property and intimidated clergy and worshippers.
The leader of the Anglican Communion handed a dossier to Mugabe with descriptions of attacks on parishioners and priests by supporters of former bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who formed a breakaway clique in 2007, seized church property and locked out Anglicans from their church buildings.
"We were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by the bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church have been subject," Williams told journalists after a nearly two-hour meeting with Mugabe.
The dossier, which was made public on Oct.11 said, "We respectfully ask that you as head of state put an end to this illegal harassment … and allow us once again to use the properties which are rightly ours so that we may worship God in peace and serve our communities and our country."
According to the documents, a woman was killed last February for refusing to renounce the Anglican congregation in Harare that is led by Bishop Chad Gandiya, recognized as the legitimate Anglican bishop there. In addition, some priests have received death threats at gunpoint, the documents said.
"Violence and intimidation have been the hallmark of this struggle. Priests and deacons are arrested without charge on a weekly basis. Zimbabwean bishops have received personal death threats by phone, in person and at gunpoint," the dossier read.
The document was signed by Archbishop Albert Chama, head of the Anglican Church’s Province of Central Africa, five bishops from Zimbabwe and Bishop Trevor Mwamba from neighbouring Botswana.
Archbishop Williams was in Zimbabwe on a two-day visit to show solidarity with local Anglicans, part of a three-nation tour in Africa.
He visited a town in eastern Zimbabwe where church members are holding service in an old municipal hall after their cathedral was locked. A group aligned with Kunonga blocked Williams’ entourage from entering the cathedral.
On Oct.9, Williams led a communion service in a sports stadium in Harare which was attended by bishops from South Africa and Botswana as well retired bishops and about 15,000 people.
Williams left Harare for Zambia on Oct. 11 and returns to London on Oct.13.