Calling for an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and an April 27 international day of prayer for the Central African nation shaken by violence and hardship after a disputed election, Anglican leaders in Africa and England have issued a series of statements appealing to the United Nations for intervention.”A desperate cry from the hearts of Zimbabwe screams across the world,” wrote Bob Stumbles, chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Harare. “It calls upon all Christians of every denomination in every nation to focus their prayers, in churches, halls, homes or elsewhere, on Sunday (April 27, 2008) on the critical situation in Zimbabwe, a nation in dire distress and teetering on the brink of human disaster.”Let the cry for help touch your heart and mind,” Stumbles continued in a statement released by email. “Let it move you to do what you can immediately to ensure this Day of Prayer takes place in your country and neighborhood.”Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Southern Africa, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Southern Africa, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu have issued statements calling for the United Nations to declare an arms embargo against Zimbabwe and supporting the Day of Prayer.
“Zimbabwe is staring into the abyss,” Tutu wrote in a statement released by London-based Anglican Information on April 24.
“I join the South African church leaders in urging all governments to immediately start work at the UN level to agree a binding UN arms embargo as quickly as possible. In the meantime I hope that every country will agree to a moratorium on the supply of any arms to the country.”
In an earlier statement reported April 22 by the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), Makgoba wrote: “The plight of the people of Zimbabwe is heart-breaking. After the March 29 elections we were told that if there had to be a second round of voting in the presidential election, it would be held within 21 days. That date has now passed, and every day that goes by without the release of presidential election results erodes yet further any remaining trust people may have in the electoral process.
“On the basis that a heavily-armed Zimbabwe would threaten peace, security and stability in southern Africa, we call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on its government,” Makgoba wrote. “We appeal to the South African Government to support such an embargo. We will ask our sister churches in countries which are also members of the Security Council to urge their governments to do likewise.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement on April 24 calling for “a civil society movement that both gives voice to those who demand an end to the mayhem that grows out of injustice, poverty, exclusion and violence.”
Williams and Sentamu echoed endorsed calls for an international day of prayer for Zimbabwe on April 27 “as part of a search for increased solidarity and justice for the people of Zimbabwe at home and in the UK.”
The two archbishops warned that without action from the international community, “continuing political violence and drift could unleash spiralling communal violence, as has been seen elsewhere in the Continent where early warning systems or the international community failed to act in time.”
The archbishops also echoed the recent concerns of Church leaders in Zimbabwe of state sponsored violence against ordinary Zimbabweans: “Faithful men, women and young people who seek better governance in either political or church affairs continue to be beaten, intimidated or oppressed.”
The archbishops further called for renewed efforts by the Government of South Africa, the United Nations and SADC to intervene in the crisis in Zimbabwe and also called for a world wide embargo on weapons sales to Zimbabwe.
According to a report from Religion News Service, church leaders in Zimbabwe have called on the United Nations and African regional groupings to step in to stem the violence that has been reported following disputed elections, and have warned that without intervention the country will witness genocide.
“As the shepherds of the people, we … express our deep concern over the deteriorating political, security, economic and human rights situation in Zimbabwe following the March 29 elections,” the church heads, drawn from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, said in a joint statement issued on April 22.
“People are being abducted, tortured and humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of political parties they are alleged not to support,” they said. “We appeal to the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe.
According to a Religion News Service (RNS) report, Zimbabweans voted on March 29 in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has announced parliamentary results that show President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party won fewer seats than the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)party.
Nearly a month after the elections, however, the electoral commission has still to announce the presidential results. The MDC has published its own results from figures collected at polling stations, and declared its leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be the winner.
Zanu-PF party militants are reported to be attacking suspected opposition supporters, with scores of people now living in the open air after their homes were torched.
In the capital’s suburbs, soldiers are said to be patrolling the streets at night and beating up residents they accuse of voting for the “wrong” candidate after the opposition won a majority in parliament.
On April 23, Zimbabwe’s government-owned Herald newspaper published an opinion piece that urged the setting up of a transitional government under Mugabe to organize new elections, although a government official was reported to have distanced himself from the article.
In Nairobi on the same day, the All Africa Conference of Churches said it had received reports that post-election violence in Zimbabwe had displaced 3000 people, injured 500 and left 10 dead, though Zimbabwean authorities say only one death has been reported and is still under investigation.
The Nairobi-based AACC grouping also commended southern African countries that have refused to allow a ship from China that was carrying weapons for Zimbabwe to dock in their territories “because,” the church grouping said, “of concerns that the Zimbabwean government may use the weapons to clamp down on the opposition.”
Episcopal Life Online – Zimbabwe crisis prompts leaders to call for arms embargo, day of prayer