Holy battle flares up in Zimbabwe

2011-09-09 20:34

Harare - Zimbabwe's top Anglican bishop said on Friday a breakaway church leader close to the country's president is intensifying a campaign to seize church properties that include missions, schools and priests' homes.

Bishop Chad Gandiya, leader of the mainstream Anglican group, said a new wave of evictions have even targeted an orphanage.

Breakaway Bishop Nolbert Kunonga claims to lead Zimbabwe's Anglicans and has already refused to hand back the Harare Cathedral, offices, buildings, church bank accounts and vehicles he seized with the protection of police loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

In 2007, Kunonga was excommunicated by the main Anglican Province of Central Africa and the worldwide head of the church after he was accused of inciting violence in sermons supporting Mugabe's party.

The schism in the Zimbabwe's Anglican community has left mainstream Anglicans without places of worship and they've experienced intimidation and alleged threats of violence.

Gandiya told The Associated Press that unknown intruders broke into his home late on Thursday.

He said he was suspicious of their motives after they stole only mobile phones and computers containing diocese files. Prior to the break-in, Gandiya had sought legal action against the new evictions and property seizures.

"The coincidence is too much," he said.

On Tuesday, police arrested an Anglican priest loyal to the mainstream group in Harare for alleged theft of church property. The Reverend Julius Zimbudzana was held in police cells for 48 hours then released without charge because of lack of evidence.

Also Tuesday, court officials in Murewa served eviction orders to St John's mission and the Shearly Cripps orphanage, home to more than 100 children and named after its founder, an Anglo-American missionary who died in 1952, lawyers for Gandiya said.

Murewa is about 100km east of Harare.

"We are refusing to vacate. We have to find alternative accommodation for the nuns and teachers. And who will look after the children? Where will they go?" Gandiya said.

He said attempts were also being made to order priests and staff to leave another mission and school near Masvingo in southern Zimbabwe and there were fears the breakaway faction would not provide qualified replacements.

Gandiya's attorneys said the evictions follow a flawed ruling last month by Zimbabwe's Supreme Court that allowed Kunonga to retain control of Anglican properties until a court appeal by the Gandiya-led church is resolved.

That ruling was made by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who, like Kunonga, is an open supporter of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

Kunonga insists he broke away from the mainstream Anglicans after the church in Britain recognised gay marriage and the rights of same sex partners. Mugabe is a bitter critic of homosexuality.

Witnesses in the western Harare township of Mbare said their Anglican priest was evicted last month from his rectory, but travels back from a village outside the city to meet with congregants on Sundays.

Other Anglicans across the city use public halls and some Roman Catholic buildings for their activities.

Pro-Gandiya worshippers barred by police and Kunonga loyalists from the Harare Cathedral and a main Anglican church in the upmarket suburb of Borrowdale also hold services in private homes and gardens.

"This is what we are dealing with every day. Our congregations get discouraged but we must remain resolute. As always, Kunonga's people can do what they want without restraint," Gandiya said.

The worldwide head of the church, the Archbishop of Canturbury, wants to meet with Mugabe in October to discuss the tensions.

  • 2WhiteStars - 2011-09-09 21:41

    When will this madness ever end? How did it come to this - because things could have been so different for the people of Zimbabwe. And I see the same thing taking place here, at the rate we're going. Worse still, we have all become so inured to the robbing of our rights that we just shake our heads and turn a blind eye. And blog our anger and frustrations away. It's not enough to challenge tyranny.

      letsee - 2011-09-10 11:50

      Now Mugabe wants to be a "pope" of sorts. What a joke the guy is.

      Ldn_saffa - 2011-09-10 14:12

      @letsee I think you'll find its spelled with a 'oo' as in 'poop of sorts'

  • Phaedioux - 2011-09-09 22:15

    Goodness me! - now they are even resorting to stealing church property. Have they really sunk that lo?

      Clif Evans - 2011-09-09 22:23

      The church just scams from the people. What go round comes round.

      Bontage - 2011-09-10 00:59

      If I may ask, Phae, what makes the church any more deserving of protection than other home-owners and businesses?

      zaatheist - 2011-09-10 03:59

      What do you think the churches have been doing for 2000 years skimming the hard earned earnings of gullible sheeple?

  • rory - 2011-09-09 22:32

    I doubt this is a doctrinal issue although the leaders of the breakaway faction will of course claim it is. In my view it is nothing but greed and hunger for worldly power

  • T de J - 2011-09-09 22:39

    GOD doesn't punish with sticks and stones like man . Don't play with what you don't understand or have any idea about . Mankind is going through it's most exciting,and dangerous times in all mankind's existence on plant EARTH. This is just a journey for us all . It could also be a game it's not how many goals you score but how you play the game.FOOD FOR THOUGHT

      Bontage - 2011-09-10 01:00

      Except when one plays the game, you get to see the referee, or at the very least the cards. And the teams aren't allowed to make up special reasons on the spot why they should be allowed to win...

  • Verdade - 2011-09-10 02:10

    This is sad!

  • zaatheist - 2011-09-10 04:02

    Hello Catholic Mugabe God and Archbishop Rowan God. You are supposed to be omnipotent and must be aware of what is going on. Why are you sitting on your hands and doing nothing to protect the properties built for group begging sessions with the hard earned cash of millions? Do something, anything ..... Waiting ....... Waiting ............ Nothing ............. Why am I not surprised?

  • letsee - 2011-09-10 11:50

    Now Mugabe wants to be a "pope" of sorts. What a joke the guy is.

  • teboh.rapheal - 2012-12-17 18:27

    in the first place under what conditions did this churches settle in africa?they are egents of the real devil.killers of indians

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