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Churches issue warning about Zimbabwe's political situation

Tim Shenk
April 30, 2008

AKRON, Pa./STRASBOURG, France – A broad coalition of Zimbabwean churches is speaking out against a political crackdown that is underway in their country following disputed national elections on March 29.

Representatives of Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical churches recently issued a joint statement warning that pro-government forces are organizing violence against individuals, families and communities that are accused of supporting Zimbabwe's political opposition.

"People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the 'wrong candidate' ... and, in some cases, people are murdered," the churches stated.

Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ Church is a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, which is one of three church groups that issued the joint statement. The Brethren in Christ Church is a member of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) and a partner of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Danisa Ndlovu, the bishop of the Brethren in Christ Church, said that his denomination supports the statement. Ndlovu is vice president and president-elect of Mennonite World Conference.

Ndlovu said that the statement is a strongly worded call for international diplomatic assistance in resolving Zimbabwe's political crisis.

It states, "We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere."

Ndlovu confirmed that there are many reports of violence against alleged opposition supporters, especially in rural areas. However, he said that there is currently little to no violence in Bulawayo, the city where he lives.

Ndlovu said that Zimbabwe's ongoing political conflict could give rise to further violence. While an opposition party claims that it won the presidency in March 29 elections, the government is conducting a recount and refusing to release the official results.

The churches' statement calls on Zimbabwe's electoral commission to release the presidential results immediately.

"We feel like there is something that is going on that is not right," Ndlovu said. "And, as churches, we feel that, I think, it's important for us to speak strongly against that."

The Brethren in Christ Church partners with MCC in projects related to AIDS, education, relief, health care and peace-building. It is the largest Mennonite World Conference member denomination in southern Africa, with about 35,000 members.