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Zimbabwe Anglicans Optimistic Following Visit by Archbishop of Canterbury

Cases in the dossier presented to Mr. Mugabe included the murder of an Anglican parishioner who refused to comply with demands that she line up behind Kunonga instead of Bishop Nicholas Chad Gandiya

The Archbishop of Canterbury left Zimbabwe early Tuesday for Zambia, the last stop on a pastoral visit to Southern Africa, following a two-hour meeting Monday with President Robert Mugabe during which he appealed to the head of state to intervene to resolve a long-running, bitter and at times violent struggle between Anglican factions.

Dr. Rowan Williams presented Mr. Mugabe with a dossier detailing the abuse and intimidation of Anglicans in the troubled Harare diocese by loyalists of excommunicated former bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, who has close ties to the president.

Cases in the dossier included the murder of an Anglican parishioner named Jessica Mandeya who refused to comply with demands that she line up behind Kunonga instead of Bishop Nicholas Chad Gandiya, who was appointed in 2010 to head the Harare diocese by the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa.

A letter accompanying the dossier, signed by Williams and all of the country's Anglican bishops, said that contrary to charges issued by Kunonga, no Anglican official is aligned with any political party. “We seek peace and reconciliation for all in our country and desire to play a role in promoting healing and prosperity,” the bishops said.

Kunonga spokesman Bishop Alfred Munyanyi dismissed the contents of Williams's dossier saying the Gandiya faction was peddling lies. Munyanyi said he does not see Mr. Mugabe doing anything to alter the situation of Zimbabwe's Anglican Church.

Bishop Gandiya, present at the meeting Monday with the president, told VOA that it was frank and that Mr. Mugabe seemed concerned when confronted with the dossier. He said he hopes Mr. Mugabe will ensure dialogue ends the dispute with Kunonga.

Ordinary Anglicans took to Facebook and Twitter to express their gratitude to President Mugabe for meeting with their religious leaders, hoping he will end the dispute.

Jonah Gokova of the Ecumenical Support Services in Zimbabwe said he hopes President Mugabe will keep his word and promote healing among local Anglicans.

But David Moore, a professor of development studies at the University of Johannesburg told VOA’s Delia Robertson that he does not believe President Mugabe is likely to follow through to end the standoff, noting that he often says one thing then does another.