Supporters of suspended South African Methodist Bishop Paul Verryn of Johannesburg have rallied around a Facebook page in solidarity with Verryn's mission to house and care for hundreds of Zimbabwean refugees.
The "Friends of Paul Verryn" called for celebration of his determined effort to shelter the immigrants in his Central Methodist church. The bishop was suspended from his position in the church last week.
"Paul Verryn is being 'dealt with' for trying to help the Zimbabweans," read a statement issued by the Congress of South African Trade Unions over the past weekend in support of the bishop. "He is being hung out to dry by the Methodist Church that he served for so long. Paul Verryn is a Christian person who walks the Christian walk," the trade union declared.
“He did not turn away those in need. Other doors were closed, while his was open," the Cosatu statement continued. "Paul Verryn exercises the option for the poor. He is a liberation theologist in action.”
He has been at the center of a controversy involving the situation of women and children at the church. Last year the bishop approached the courts seeking that a curator be appointed for minors living at the church.
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa said Verryn acted unilaterally in launching the application. The church said it only allowed the presiding bishop or the church’s general secretary to bring an application before a court.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.
Meanwhile South African Labor Minister Membathisi Mdladlana toured farming communities around De Doorns, a Western Cape town 150 kilometers from Cape Town where Zimbabweans were attacked and driven from their homes amid intense competition for agricultural jobs.
A spokesman for the minister, Tebaho Thejane, said Mdladlana met farm workers, employers and other stakeholders to discuss hiring practices which sparked the November violence, and other related issues.
Thejane said Mdladlana was inviting Zimbabwean Labor Minister Paurina Gwanyanya to discuss the issues causing tension.