The Archbishops of Canterbury and York in the United Kingdom on Monday condemned new incidents of intimidation of members of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe following the disruption of services over the Christmas weekend by police despite a reported agreement by authorities not to interfere.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said the “unprovoked intimidation of worshipers” by police was “completely unacceptable and indicative of the continued and persistent oppression by state instruments of those perceived to be in opposition” to President Robert Mugabe. The Church of England's top two clerics said the church was a lifeline for Zimbabweans struggling to survive.
“We condemn unequivocally any move to deny people their basic right to worship. To prevent people from worshiping in their churches on Christmas Day - unable to receive the church’s message of hope - is a further blow to civil liberties in Zimbabwe,” the bishops said in a statement.
Police who disrupted services were believed to be backing former Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, dismissed by the Anglican Province of Central Africa which replaced him this year with Bishop Chad Nicholas Gandiya. Kunonga loyalists have refused to cede physical control of Anglican churches.
Responding to the statement from the English Bishops, Kunonga spokesman Bishop Alfred Munyanyi said Kunonga remains in charge of the Anglican church in Harare whether Bishops Sentamu and Williams liked it or not.
Anglican priest Paul Gwese, speaking for Gandiya, said the diocese will do what is necessary to end Kunonga’s influence over the church and its property.
Commenting, political analyst John Makumbe said it is sad that the Anglican Church has been turned into a battleground by Kunonga and President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, of which Kunonga has been a supporter.