My trip to Zimbabwe was a pastoral visit in which I took the opportunity to express the solidarity of Anglicans in Southern Africa with persecuted Anglicans in Zimbabwe.
I was invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama. We were also joined by the Archbishop of Tanzania, the Most Revd Valentino Mokiwa, who is also president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, and the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Trevor Mwamba.
On Sunday more than 10,000 worshippers gathered in a sports complex to greet and hear from us. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached, and I gave a message of support to the persecuted. I received warm applause when I told them that the dispossession and persecution of faithful Anglicans in Zimbabwe is a result not of schism but of thuggery, where people are helped to steal church property without recourse.
I told them that I came to bring the prayers of all Southern African Christians, and that, though burdened by this thuggery, Zimbabweans should know that they are not forgotten.
In South Africa’s bleakest moments under apartheid, we were held and encouraged by solidarity visits. If those who persecute Zimbabwean Anglicans touch Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, they touch all Southern African Anglicans; if you touch Southern Africa, they touch the Archbishop of Canterbury and all of us. On behalf of Southern Africa Anglicans I presented Bishop Chad a cheque to assist the work of the Church there.
On Monday our walk of witness moved from Harare to Manicaland. We experienced the reality of Nolbert Kunonga’s campaign of destabilization and dispossession. The majority of Anglicans were worshipping in shabby places while their churches stood locked. In Mutare a group held placards and refused us entrance into St John’s Cathedral.
At the historic St Augustine’s Mission, Penhalonga, near Mutare, another group held more placards and blocked the entrance to the Mission. We abandoned our cars and walked up the hill to the Mission. We prayed with the sisters and the faithful in all areas we visited. In each place, those who protested against us were in the minority, and the majority received us with great joy.
Later on Monday, we had a fruitful two-hour meeting with President Robert Mugabe. Although moving on in age and forgetful in certain instances, the President was aware of our pain, frustration and disappointment at the police-aided church conflict and violence by Kunonga. I appealed to his heart and his Catholic conscience, and asked him to stop the suffering of his people.
President Mugabe asked that we also pray and intervene to end sanctions, as they were hurting all Zimbabweans. He also said Britain had dishonoured its pledges in the implementation of the country's post-independence land reform programme.
We then held a press conference and later the Archbishop of Canterbury met privately with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
During our visit the atmosphere was a mixture of deep despair yet strong emergent hope. Perhaps it is best summarised in my words to the people gathered at the worship service in Harare: if God is on our side, who can be against us; and nothing can separate us from his love, not even persecution and immense trial. So we can take heart.
Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Inquiries: Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)