The World Council of Churches has called for the immediate release of the full and complete results of disputed elections in Zimbabwe, as Christians around the world are being urged to take part in an international day of prayer for the southern African nation on 27 April.
"The World Council of Churches joins with churches across Zimbabwe in calling for the immediate release of the election results," WCC general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia said in a 25 April statement from the church grouping’s headquarters in Geneva. "The longer the government remains silent about the real outcome of the election, the greater the risk for the people of Zimbabwe," he said.
Also in Geneva, the World Student Christian Federation has urged its members to join a world day of prayer for Zimbabwe on 27 April. The Anglican diocese of Harare called for the day of prayer, which is supported by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Zimbabweans voted at the end of March in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Nearly a month later, however, the country’s electoral commission has still to announce the presidential results.
"As the Zimbabwean people wait, there are repeated reports of organized violence against those who did not vote for the ruling party," said Kobia. "What is happening in Zimbabwe raises new concerns that an electoral process in Africa is again being compromised by rigging and reprisals."
He said the WCC was supporting a call by church leaders in Zimbabwe for the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, "to intervene and prevent a political crisis from escalating into mass violence".
Zimbabwe has been led by President Robert Mugabe since its independence from Britain in 1980. Activists belonging to his ruling Zanu-PF party are reported to be attacking suspected opposition supporters, with scores of people now said to be living in the open air after their homes were torched.
In Harare, a delegation from the heads of Christian organisations in the country met the police commissioner general on 24 April against the backdrop of the mounting violence which is reported to have led to the displacement of hundreds of opposition supporters.
"We have engaged the commissioner general of the police, we called upon law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators of violence are dealt with swiftly and in accordance with the law," the head of the delegation, Bishop Trevor Manhanga, told journalists.
In London, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior leaders of the (Anglican) Church of England, urged all Christian denominations to support the 27 April day of prayer. The two men said they supported a call by South Africa’s Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba for a United Nations arms embargo against Zimbabwe.
"The current climate of political intimidation, violence, vote rigging and delay has left the presidential election process without credibility," the archbishop of Canterbury said in his joint statement with Archbishop John Sentamu of York.
Kobia, in his statement, praised churches, labour unions, arms control groups and governments that had prevented a ship from China, which contained weapons and ammunition for Zimbabwe, being able to dock and unload its cargo in southern Africa. "Further vigilance is needed, however, amid reports of similar arms deals destined for Zimbabwe," Kobia cautioned.
The WCC statement came a day after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for an arms embargo to be imposed against Zimbabwe.
"It is obvious that supplying large quantities of arms at this stage would risk escalating the violence, perhaps resulting in the large scale loss of life," said Tutu, the former leader of the Anglican church in South Africa. "If violence flares further in Zimbabwe, those supplying the weapons will be left with blood on their hands."
The WCC groups 349 churches, mostly Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox. In the 1970s and 1980s, it controversially provided humanitarian assistance, through a special fund, to armed liberation movements fighting white rule in southern Africa, including Zimbabwe. In 1998, the WCC held its global assembly in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.
Statement by WCC general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia: www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/eng/a/article/1722/statement-on-zimbabwe-by.html
World Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe on 27 April: www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2008/4/21/ACNS4392
Archbishops of Canterbury and York issue Joint Statement on Zimbabwe: www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2008/4/24/ACNS4396
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba calls for UN arms embargo on Zimbabwe: www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2008/4/23/ACNS4394
Tutu calls for arms embargo on Zimbabwe: www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EVOD-7DZJEL?OpenDocument [
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