Zimbabwe: Totalitarianism Blights the Church; also LRA Update

Prayer February 11, 2009

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 516 | Wed 11 Feb 2009 

(This is a longer RLP due to important background material.) 

Robert Mugabe's secret police directly interfered in church affairs in 2001 to secure a staunch Mugabe and ZANU-PF supporter, Rev. Nolbert Kunonga, as the Anglican Bishop of Harare. Kunonga purged the church's ranks of white clergy and anyone deemed disloyal to the Mugabe regime. Half the clergy fled abroad. To fill the empty pulpits Kunonga ordained puppets, including ZANU-PF cabinet ministers and secret police. This effectively turned the Anglican Diocese in Harare into a state-controlled church in which dissidents feared for their lives. An ecclesiastical trial in 2005 collapsed because witnesses were too afraid to testify against Kunonga, who was charged with heresy and with crimes ranging from fraud to complicity in the murder of ten priests. 

Opposition mounted and in October 2007 Kunonga moved to separate the Harare diocese from the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (ACPCA). The ACPCA then removed Kunonga from his post on the grounds of schism and appointed Rev. Dr Sebastian Bakare (66) as the new Bishop of Harare. Kunonga appealed unsuccessfully to Harare's High Court, which in January 2008 upheld the church's right to rule its own affairs. However, the court ruled that the factions should share the church premises until a resolution could be found. In defiance of court orders, Kunonga barricaded himself inside Harare's Anglican Cathedral along with some 40 members of the ZANU-PF youth militia. In May 2008 an appeal by Kunonga to the Supreme Court was unsuccessful. When the ACPCA excommunicated Kunonga, state-orchestrated violence against Harare's Anglicans exploded. Mugabe's police began raiding worship services, beating worshippers and seizing church property. Bishop Bakare appealed to the global Church for prayer saying: 'We are being persecuted.' (See RLP 484) 

In violation of High Court orders, Mugabe's police have been attending churches throughout Harare and physically preventing members of the mainstream congregations led by Bishop Bakare from using church property. Harare's chief police officer, Fortune Zengeni, even sent a letter to Anglican churches ordering that only priests aligned with Kunonga be permitted to hold services. Recently a priest from the Kunonga faction, Rev. David Kunyongana, refused to let the mainline Anglicans use St Joseph's Dzivarasekwa parish church. A confrontation ensued and Kunyongana called for assistance from another pro-Mugabe priest, who upon arrival drove his vehicle straight at the youths standing at the parish gate. Whilst nobody was injured, this act of intimidation provoked a further confrontation. Kunyongana called the police and several mainstream Anglicans were arrested, including church wardens. 

On 1 February 2009 Bishop Bakare made another appeal for prayer. 'We have exhausted all channels. We will only fight through God as he knows what is best for his church and he is the one who can correctly distinguish between good and evil. They [the Kunonga faction] are conniving with some rogue members of the police force and working in unison to violate the High Court judgment. We are not going to fight them. Prayer is the only solution.' 

On 3 February 2009 the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, released a statement on Zimbabwe which denounced Mugabe's rule as illegitimate and decried the absolutely appalling conditions inside the country. They denounced Nolbert Kunonga and called for the full restoration of Anglican property within Zimbabwe to the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

They urged 'the Churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Wednesday 25 February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people.' 

Doubtless, if Mugabe had his way this sort of political interference in and persecution of the church would spread across denominational lines and across the state in typical totalitarian fashion. WEA RLC calls on all believers across denominational lines-- all members of the body of Christ -- to pray for Zimbabwe. 

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR - 

*our compassionate God to have mercy on Zimbabwe's suffering  multitudes crippled by poverty, stricken by cholera and hunger,  and ravaged by political-religious violence; may he bring peace  and justice to Zimbabwe in answer to the prayers of many.  

'On him we have set out hope that he will deliver us again. You must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.' (2 Corinthians 1:10b,11 ESV) 

* the 'true light' to confound the forces of darkness in Zimbabwe,  and build and sanctify his Church. (John 1:4-9) 'The light  shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overtaken it.'  (v5 ESV) 

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE       

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TOTALITARIANISM BLIGHTS THE CHURCH IN ZIMBABWE 

Robert Mugabe's secret police extended ZANU-PF totalitarian control into the Anglican Church in Harare in 2001 by directly interfering in church affairs to secure the pro-Mugabe Rev. David Kunonga as Bishop of Harare. In 2007 the church split after the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa deposed Kunonga and replaced him with Bishop Bakare. In 2008 the High Court ruled that the factions share church premises. But Kunonga has defied this and, with the collusion of Mugabe's police, seized church properties and expelled mainstream Anglicans who continue to suffer intimidation and persecution. Bishop Bakare is appealing for prayer. The Primates of the Anglican Communion have urged the Church 'to observe Wednesday 25 February 2009, Ash Wednesday, as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people'. 

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UPDATE ON THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE LORD'S RESISTANCE ARMY (LRA) 

Two of the LRA's most senior commanders have now defected. Last week LRA deputy Okot Odhiambo defected and appealed to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for safe passage to surrender. Now the LRA's other most senior commander, Dominic Ongwen, has joined Odhiambo and is seeking to surrender with him, along with the 120 LRA fighters under their command. Meanwhile, on Saturday night 7 February a band of LRA rebels attacked the town of Aba in Orientale Province, north-east Congo, killing six, kidnapping 21 and sending thousands fleeing into southern Sudan. The rebels -- who fight in the Lord's name and claim to have revelation from the Holy Spirit -- also plundered the local Protestant parish and hospital. LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is a terrorist and spirit medium, has evaded the Ugandan Army for over 20 years. Please persist in prayer.  

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.  

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.

Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.