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Zimbabwe Methodists condemn violence as toll mounts


The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has condemned mounting post-election violence which has left at least 50 people dead and displaced thousands of villagers, according to rights groups and the main opposition political party. At the same time police tried to prevent worshipers entering Harare’s Christ Church in the suburb of Borrowdale despite them being granted a court order to pray there.

"We have received news this morning [25 May] that despite this, riot police blocked the entrance of the entrance to congregants who were attempting to attend the service," the Sokwanele Civic Action Group reported on its blog www.sokwanele.com. "The women, in their anger, broke down the fence to get in. All the women have been arrested. We are told up to 80 women have been arrested, as well as the priest."

The report also said that Zimbabwe-born Peter Godwin, author of the books "Mukiwa" and "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun", was amongst parishioners attempting to pray on Africa Day, 25 May, and that he had also been arrested, but subsequently released.

The Methodist church for its part said in a pastoral letter on 24 May to mark John Wesley Day, "The church condemns in the strongest terms the escalating post-election violence as reported in both the State and independent media." The statement came as the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party buried one of four activists abducted nearly two weeks ago and found dead last week.

"Let’s remember we are a people together regardless of race, creed, sex or political affiliation. We call upon the people of our nation to recognise the brotherhood that binds us together as a nation and within communities," the Methodist leaders said in their letter. "We encourage the children of Zimbabwe to practise unity in diversity and to shun the culture of violence and revenge and to exercise restraint even when provoked."

Violence broke out in most rural parts of Zimbabwe following the announcement of parliamentary results from general elections held on 29 March.

The results saw long-ruling President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party losing its parliamentary majority to an opposition party for the first time since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980.

The opposition says its supporters are being targeted in acts of retribution in a campaign by ruling Zanu-PF militants code-named "Operation Who Did You Vote For?" Mugabe accuses the opposition of fomenting violence, saying the party had set up groups of youths to burn down houses of ruling party supporters.

The Methodist Church deplored the violence and the country’s economic crisis which has condemned many to poverty. "Zimbabwe is not enjoying the best of times and life is becoming unbearable for the average Zimbabwean," the pastoral letter said.