, 19 August, 2020 / 8:01 PM
Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa and Religious Superiors in Zimbabwe have, in separate statements, expressed solidarity with the Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe who have come under attack from political leaders over their recent Pastoral Letter that denounces reported “situation of repression” by President Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government.
In their Wednesday, August 19 statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) express their awareness of the situation in Zimbabwe and commend the Bishops for their “prophetic voice” in denouncing injustices.
“We continue to note with increasing concern the unabated situation of repression in Zimbabwe, resulting in increasing hardship and suffering to the citizens,” SACBC members say.
They add, “The Catholic Church and its Bishops in Southern Africa stand in unconditional solidarity with you as leadership who are being targeted by the government and with masses of the people who are suffering from this situation.”
The three-nation Catholic leaders laud their counterparts in Zimbabwe for the “prophetic voice in naming and condemning the brutalization of ordinary people by security forces and the underlying corruption that has led to the total collapse of services to the people by the government.”
Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe have recently come under heavy criticism from the government of President Mnangagwa, following their August 14 Pastoral Letter in which they called on the State to address economic and political challenges bedeviling the country.
Reacting to the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa “vehemently objected and strongly condemned” the Bishops’ pronouncements, singling out the President of Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), Archbishop Robert Ndlovu.
“Archbishop Ndlovu dons the robes of Archbishop Arthanase Seromba who was the chief spiritual ideologist and violent practitioner of the 1994 Hutu-Tutsi Genocide of Rwanda,” Ms. Mutsvangwa.
The Zimbabwean Minister added in her widely publicized statement, “With nefarious cynicism to history, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu is inching to lead the Zimbabwe Catholic congregation into the darkest dungeons of Rwanda-type genocide.”
In their August 19 statement, SACBC members say, “It is most regrettable that instead of addressing the issues, the government through its Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, chose instead to target and insult Archbishop Robert Ndlovu as “evil minded”, projecting its own tribalistic agenda to fuel divisions in the country.”
SACBC members make reference to the Gospel of Luke saying, “To you bishops and particularly to you Archbishop Ndlovu we remind you of what Jesus foretold about those who speak in his name that ‘they will seize you and persecute you’.”
“Your voice of encouragement to the people of Zimbabwe is what they needed to hear in this time of their greatest need,” they further say, expressing the hope that the Bishops and other religious leaders in Zimbabwe “will continue to speak prophetically, with the voice of God, and be the light that shines in the darkness.”
“Keeping quiet is not an option and as shepherds of the people your voice of support gives hope to the people entrusted to you to carry on,” the Catholic Church leaders in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland emphasize in their August 19 solidarity statement.
They add, “As your brothers and sisters in Southern Africa, we assure you of our support and prayers that this time of suffering in your country may soon come to an end.”
In a separate statement dated August 18 statement, Religious Superiors in Zimbabwe have made known their solidarity with members of ZCBC.
“We unite ourselves with our Bishops in their genuine and truthful concern regarding the situation in Zimbabwe today,” members of the Conference of Catholic Major Religious Superiors in Zimbabwe (CMRS-Z) say.
They add, “We stand firmly with the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference's Pastoral Letter on the situation in Zimbabwe. Like them, and like millions of other Zimbabweans, we know that Zimbabwe is in a crisis and has been such for a long time.”
In the statement signed by seven members of the National Executive, the Religious Superiors say that the Church “does not seek political power; it seeks the good of the people,” a vision they say is contained in the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter.
“Indeed, ‘The March’ has not ended. We enjoin all Zimbabweans of goodwill to pray for the conversion of us all so that we can all be peace-loving and garner the strength and will to work concretely for the transformation of our country,” CMRS-Z members say in their collective statement.
Others who have expressed their solidarity with the Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe include the National Movement of Catholic Students Zimbabwe (NMCS), the Catholic Professional Network of Zimbabwe (CPNZ), the Apostolic Nuncio in Zimbabwe, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) and the Catholic Lawyers Guild.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa