We’ll not be silenced: Bishops

LOCAL Anglican bishops have thrown their weight behind their Catholic counterparts who were recently publicly chastised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for highlighting human rights abuses in the country.

BY MOSES MATENGA

Government recently blasted local Catholic priests for releasing a hard-hitting pastoral letter outing the State’s heavy handedness on civilians.In an equally strongly-worded pastoral letter dated August 24, 2020, the Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ) said the government should not threaten the church for carrying out its spiritual duty of “speaking on behalf of God’s

people” and calling political leaders to order when they deviate from the norm.“We write this message to highlight our concerns and emphasise that indeed the ‘March is Not Ended’ unless and until the issues raised by the people of Zimbabwe and also echoed by the (Catholic) bishops are attended to and resolved holistically,” the Anglican bishops said.
The letter was signed by ACZ chairman Ignatios Makumbe of the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe, Godfrey Tawonezvi (Diocese of Masvingo), Cleophas Lunga (Diocese of Matabeleland), Erick Ruwona (Diocese of Manicaland) and Farai Mutamiri (Diocese of Harare).

“We wish to register our concerns to the several responses of the government which we feel were counter-productive to the efforts being made by many stakeholders including the church to unite the nation,” the letter read in part.

“ACZ notes with concern the several responses by the government of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference which seem to dismiss the fact that the church is called to exercise its prophetic role, which can mean challenging our political leaders on their conduct of affairs, particularly if this affects the people of God.”

Mnangagwa last week told a Zanu PF politburo meeting that the Catholic bishops had deviated from their mandate and dared them to join politics.

But government’s stance attracted backlash from regional and international Christian bodies which stood in solidarity with the Catholic priests.

“We make it abundantly clear that since time immemorial, the church in Zimbabwe has spoken against injustice and has been consistent in that regard. Any view or postulation to the contrary would be an attempt to rewrite that narrative in order to promote a negative picture of what the church stands for,” the Anglican leaders said.

They added: “The church has the biblical mandate to speak without fear or favour, particularly to a government which believes that ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’.
“As Anglican bishops, we desire to see an engagement of all stakeholders (as requested by Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations and respect of the Constitution of the land and institutions thereof for the good of our nation and (Proverbs 11:14); victory for the nation as we, together, overcome all our challenges.”

The Anglican priets also called on the government to stop arbitrary arrests of citizens and corruption that has flourished under Mnangagwa’s watch.

Zimbabwe is currently going through an unprecedented socio-economic and political crisis which has been exacerbated by gross human rights abuses and a collapsed health delivery system, but government insists there is no crisis.

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