Zimbabwe Anglican bishops release pastoral letter backing Catholic criticisms of the ZANU-PF government

1
246
Emmerson Mnangagwa

The Anglican bishops of Zimbabwe have released a pastoral letter supporting the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference critique of the regime of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ZANU-PF government.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic collapse, with inflation running at 847 percent  as of mid-August. Critiques of the Mnangagwa regime is as brutal as that of former strongman Robert Mugbabe in its persecution of political opponents and independent journalists.

In a pastoral letter read out at all Roman Catholic churches on 9 Aug 2020, the catholic bishops said Zimbabwe faced “a multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses.”

The letter criticizing the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa followed a police crackdown on anti-government protests last month. Democracy activists report some protesters were abducted and tortured by the security services, while others remained in hiding.

“Fear runs down the spines of many of our people today,” the pastoral letter said. “The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented … Our government automatically labels anyone thinking differently as an enemy of the country: that is an abuse.”

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa denounced the bishops’ letter as “evil”. In a statement printed in the government-backed Sunday Mail, she wrote the Catholic bishops were seeking to promote “regime change” and civil war. “With nefarious cynicism to history, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu is inching to lead the Zimbabwe Catholic congregation into the darkest dungeons of Rwanda-type genocide.”

On 18 August 2020, the Anglican bishops released a statement supporting their Catholic brethren, saying it was the duty of the church to challenge injustice.

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe [ACZ] “notes with concern the several responses by the Government of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference which seem to discuss the fact that the Church is called to exercise its prophetic role, which can mean challenging our political leaders on their conduct of affairs, particularly if this affects the people of God,”

“We write this message to highlight our concerns and emphasise that; ‘Indeed The March is Not Ended’ unless and until the issues raised by the people of Zimbabwe and also echoed by the Bishops are attended to and resolved holistically.

“We make it abundantly clear that since time immemorial, the Church in Zimbabwe has spoken against injustices and has been consistent in that regard.

“Any view or postulation to the contrary would be an attempt to re-write that narrative in order to promote a negative picture of what the Church stands for.”

The bishops said the church has a “Biblical mandate to speak without fear or favour, particularly to a government which believes that the ‘voice of the people is the voice of God’.”

The bishops’ letter is posted below:

“Son of man, I have made you watchman to the house of Israel; therefore, hear the word at my mouth and give them warning from Me”. (Ezekiel 3:17) The Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) writes in solidarity to the pastoral letter issued on 14 August 2020 by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference entitled “The March is Not Ended”. ACZ notes with concern the several responses by the Government of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference which seem to dismiss the fact that the Church is called to exercise its prophetic role, which can mean challenging our political leaders on their conduct of affairs, particularly if this affects the people of God.

We write this message to highlight our concerns and emphasize that “Indeed the “March is Not Ended” unless and until the issues raised by the people of Zimbabwe and also echoed by the bishops are attended to and resolved holistically.

We wish to register our concerns to the several responses of the government which we feel were counterproductive to the efforts being made by many stakeholders including the Church to unite the nation.

We make it abundantly clear that since time immemorial, the Church in Zimbabwe has spoken against injustice and has been consistent in that regard. Any view or postulation to the contrary would be an attempt to re-write that narrative in order to promote a negative picture of what the Church stands for. The Church has the Biblical mandate to speak without fear or favour, particularly to a government which
believes that “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” The prophetic ministry of the Church mandates it to speak for God and for His people as it is the ambassador of Christ and God is appealing through it. (2 Cor. 5:20).

As Anglican Bishops, we desire to see an engagement of all stakeholders (as requested by Zimbabwe Heads Of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) and respect of the Constitution of the land and institutions thereof for the good of our nation and (Proverbs 11:14); victory for the nation as we, together, overcome all our challenges.

We also call upon the citizens of this our beautiful nation to remain calm, pray for peace and to work towards all that promotes peace and the common good. We also call upon all Christians and other religions to pray for our leaders and the nation at large for peace, stability and prosperity. To our brothers and Roman Catholic Church in particular, we say we are holding you in our prayers and

May the Blessing of the Almighty God strengthen you and be with you now and forever.

Amen.

+Ignatios Makumbe ACZ Chairman (Diocese of Central Zimbabwe)

+Godfrey Tawonezvi (Diocese of Masvingo)

+ Cleophas Lunga ( Diocese of Matabeleland)

+ Erick Ruwona (Diocese of Manicaland)

+ Farai Mutamiri (Diocese of Harare)