News24

Anglicans hold protest service

2010-01-31 23:27

Harare - Thousands of churchgoers held an open air protest service in Harare on Sunday in a row over property belonging to the Anglican Church.

At least 4 000 worshippers from around Zimbabwe gathered in a square adjacent to the city's Anglican cathedral, complaining about what they said was police harassment.

Bishop of Harare Chad Gandiya said police had stopped worshippers entering the cathedral and had made threats.

"The custodians of the law are the ones denying us access, threatening to arrest us or use teargas to force us out. There are church wardens who have been arrested and some who bear marks of beatings," he said.

Zimbabwe's Anglicans have been embroiled in a feud since 2007, when the former bishop of Harare Nolbert Kunonga refused to hand over property in protest at what he said was the church's pro-gay stance.

Kunonga, a supporter of President Robert Mugabe who once described the president as "more Christian than myself", set up his own diocese with a clique of supporters.

For two years Kunonga and his followers have stopped the majority of churchgoers, led by Gandiya, getting into church buildings, forcing them to hold services in the open air.

"This is not normal," Gandiya told worshippers in Africa Unity Square, next to the cathedral, on Sunday.

"If all was well we would be holding this church service inside that building, but we are being denied entry.

"We are gathered in the open not because there is no room in the building where we are supposed to be but because we are being denied access," he said.

The bishop said the police threats would not deter the congregation and they would continue their struggle peacefully.