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Church Leaders in Zimbabwe Urged to Disown “heretical denominations” after Minor’s Death

Memory Machaya who passed on while delivering at the Johanne Marange Apostolic Shrine. Credit: Courtesy photo

The leadership of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has called on Christian leaders in Zimbabwe to disown “heretical” faith-based entities following the death of a 14-year-old girl while giving birth at a shrine.

Memory Machaya is reported to have died on July 15 at the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church in Manicaland Province while giving birth to a child she allegedly conceived with Evans Momberume, a member of the church and to whom she was married to at the age of 13.

“We call on churches in Zimbabwe to clearly disown heretical denominations, which support such evils in the name of faith,” AACC leadership says in the Monday, August 16 statement shared with ACI Africa. 

Religious leaders in the Southern African country should “take a clear stand within churches to not only condemn but also work with government and other leaders to expose, prosecute and bring to justice all perpetrators in their midst,” AACC officials further say.

They further calls on Zimbabwean church leaders to “take up on a priority basis, advocacy to push for the enactment of the Marriage Bill that is currently before Parliament.”

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“The Government has stated that this stand-alone Child Marriage Act is expected to give child marriages a legislative framework that adequately addresses the matter in its complexity, and also carries a deterrent penal code,” AACC leadership says. 

The Marriage Bill 2019 seeks to bring the governance of marriages in Zimbabwe under a single Law. 

In the statement signed by AACC Secretary General, Rev. Fidon Mwombeki, the representatives of Christian leaders in Africa condemn “the rape, abuse, and neglect” that led to Memory’s demise “in the strongest possible terms.” 

“It is especially abhorrent that (the) illegal and inhumane child marriage was effected under cover of a misleading faith purporting to be Christian,” AACC leadership bemoans in the one-page statement titled, “Justice for Memory Machaya”.

AACC representatives say they “fully support” members of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) who called for an “independent national inquiry” into the sexual abuse of women and girls in church premises.

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In their August 10 statement, ZHOCD members who are drawn from the leadership the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) called on Church leaders in Zimbabwe to stop protecting the perpetrators of sexual crimes and report all forms of abuse of women and girls in their midst.

AACC officials also join the United Nations in calling for justice and an end to all forms of Gender Based Violence against women and girls. 

“We ask if it is really true that, according to UN estimates, one in three girls in Zimbabwe is married off before the age of 18?” they pose in reference to UN statistics.  

It is time for church leaders on the continent to “prophetically lead efforts to ensure justice in our respective countries,” AACC representatives says, and add, “We all owe it to the girls and women of Zimbabwe and Africa.”

They also implore African governments to fulfil their constitutional duty of protecting girls and women in our societies, boldly enforcing existing laws designed to ensure this protection.

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