Church leaders from Zimbabwe, central Africa and Europe have been commenting on the on-going political situation in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe remains under house arrest and, according to the Reuters news agency, is declining mediation efforts led by his long-time Roman Catholic chaplain, the Revd Fidelis Mukonori. But this evening, The Herald newspaper has published photos showing Mugabe meeting with Zimbabwean Defence Force Commander General Constantino Chiwenga, diplomats from South Africa and Father Fidelis.
In a pastoral letter, the Archbishop of Central Africa, Albert Chama, echoed the call for prayer and dialogue that was issued yesterday by the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Albert, who is also the chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (Capa), said: that “this sad situation needs more than a political solution. It also needs all people of faith to pray and all citizens to engage in dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in Zimbabwe.”
He added: “This is based on the call to follow Christ the Prince of Peace and the incarnate God who, in dwelling with and among us, affirms the dignity of each one of us and our environment.
“We pray that no life will be lost and no property will be destroyed during this time of uncertainty.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said he had been “following events in Zimbabwe closely and praying intensely for a peaceful solution” over the past few days.
Writing in an ACNS blog and his Facebook page this afternoon, he said: “I am praying for the whole nation of Zimbabwe – its people, its military, its political leaders – that they may find a path forward that leads to the flourishing of this nation and all its people.
“To the Church in Zimbabwe: your brothers and sisters around the Anglican Communion stand with you in prayer, solidarity and hope. Your faith, courage and persistence in the face of difficult times has long been an example to the world. May God strengthen, protect and guide you as you seek to bear witness to the love of Christ at this deeply challenging time.
“The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations have called for prayer for the nation, for calm and peace, and for respect of human dignity. To Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, I pray that these calls are heard in the coming days, weeks and months.
Speaking on the UK’s Premier Christian Radio, the Bishop of Harare, Chad Gandiya, has said he is praying for a peaceful transition. “On Wednesday morning we woke up to the news that the Army was in control and that we were to remain calm,” he said. “And people have remained calm.
“Yesterday [Wednesday] was very quiet, and today it is also quiet. People are going about their normal duties, but obviously people are a little bit sensitive to the situation, but we thank God that there is quietness in the country and in the city of Harare in particular.
“As a church, we are concerned that what we are going through is peaceful. We are concerned about violence – nobody wants violence and we are grateful that the authorities at this time are also encouraging us all not to be violent. We are concerned that whatever changes are in store for us, these take place in a peaceful manner.”
He told Premier’s John Pantry and Rosie Wright that what happened next in Zimbabwe was “anybody’s guess”. “The situation is still unfolding, and so people can speculate about this and that,” he said, “but I think the reality is that the army is definitely still in control.”
He said it was his prayer “that when elections do take place they will be free and fair”. Zimbabwe was once known as the Jewel of Africa. Bishop Chad said: “everybody believes that we can recover and that the jewel will sparkle again.”
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, welcomed yesterday’s statement by the Heads of Christian Denominations, saying: “we are thankful and encouraged by the way churches in Zimbabwe stand together in solidarity in this difficult situation, and we join them in praying for peaceful developments in the country.” He has joined calls for churches around the world to pray for peace and justice in Zimbabwe.