[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town has called on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to put an end to persecution of the Anglican Church after state police on Jan. 3 broke up the annual prayer retreat of clergy from the Diocese of Harare.
About 80 diocesan priests were meeting at Peterhouse School in Marondera, capital of Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland East province, when police intervened and halted the gathering, reportedly on the grounds that it had not received official legal clearance.
Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, called the police action shocking and deplorable.
“I call on President Mugabe to ensure that the religious freedom of all Zimbabweans, and especially persecuted Anglicans, is respected, and to instruct the police to allow the churches freedom of assembly and worship,” Makgoba said in a Jan. 4 statement.
A statement released by the Harare diocese said: “We deplore this action and call upon higher authorities to intervene. So much for freedom of religion.”
Zimbabwe’s Anglicans have faced repeated harassment and violence from Mugabe’s police force since renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga was 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.
Incumbent Anglican Bishop Chad Gandiya has led the Harare diocese since May 2009.
“We affirm Bishop Chad Gandiya, his clergy and people at this time,” Makgoba said in his statement. “As they share in the sufferings of Christ, may they gain strength from the experience and never give in to a cynical and sinister government.”
Makgoba also called on “ecumenical friends and our partners in the Anglican Communion to ask their governments to put pressure on Zimbabwe to end this persecution.”
In October, Makgoba was joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the archbishops of Central Africa and Tanzania in meeting with Mugabe, presenting him with a dossier of abuses against the Anglican Church and calling on him to “put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behavior.”