Archbishops of Canterbury, York launch Zimbabwe appeal

Support PM Tsvangirai's plea for help, Southern Africa Archbishop Makgoba says
February 25, 2009

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu have launched a joint appeal to help counter the humanitarian crisis and deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe.

The archbishops' appeal for Zimbabwe "highlights the support needed by churches, which are struggling to feed the hungry and heal the sick, and are suffering alongside their communities," a February 25 press release from Lambeth Palace says.

In a joint article in The Times of London newspaper February 25, the archbishops said: "We have been witnessing the slow death of a people. And slow death is only intermittently newsworthy; nothing to report except more of the same, so that the temptation is to switch off. But this doesn't mean that the need for hope is any less urgent on the ground."

The archbishops' Zimbabwe Appeal is being administered by USPG: Anglicans in World Mission and donations can be made online here.

"With about 50 percent of the population now estimated to be in danger of starvation, with cases of cholera rising to nearly 75,000 and a fatality rate of one in 20, with AIDS still a mass killer and no antiretrovirals available, with raw sewage pumping into streets, the humanitarian situation is as bad as it could be," the archbishops said in The Times article. "The church remains a trusted deliverer of aid at grass roots level, capable of getting food and medical supplies to those who need them, and we urge everyone, inside and outside the Christian church, to give it their strong support. And for Christian believers, we want to repeat the primates' call for prayer and fasting especially today, Ash Wednesday -- accepting our responsibility to stand alongside all who are suffering in Zimbabwe."

The Anglican primates, meeting in Alexandria, Egypt earlier this month, said that Zimbabwe's economic and socio-political breakdown is a "matter of grave concern," and called on President Robert Mugabe to step down.

Anglicans in Zimbabwe's Diocese of Harare have faced ongoing harassment and violence from Mugabe's police force in an attempt to stop them from worshipping. Renegade Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, an avid Mugabe supporter, still claims ownership of the Anglican churches despite being officially excommunicated in May 2008.

Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party continue to hold onto power despite being defeated by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, in the March 2008 elections. The primates called this illegitimate rule a "flagrant disregard of the outcome of the democratic elections" and acknowledged that there is "an apparent breakdown of the rule of law within the country," and that the democratic process is being undermined.

The primates also urged the churches of the Anglican Communion to join with the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing Ash Wednesday (February 25) as a day of prayer and solidarity with the Zimbabwean people. Suggested prayers are available on the Anglican Communion website here.

In early February, the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, agreed to join a unity government with Mugabe.

Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba February 25 appealed to the international community "to give generously" to Zimbabwe's new unity government in response to pleas for help by Tsvangirai.

"Although many have had reservations in the past about whether the inclusive government ... can work, it is right now the only hope which the people of Zimbabwe have, and we must do all we can to make it work," Makgoba said in an Ash Wednesday sermon at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town. "The injustice, the oppression, the hunger, the deprivation they have suffered is hard for us to grasp. Their needs are desperate: the most basic medication for clinics and hospitals; money to pay for the marking of last year's exam papers, let alone civil servants' salaries."

"As Anglicans, we can fast for the people of Zimbabwe and donate what we save as a result of our Lenten observances to support them," he added. "Most important of all, we can pray for Zimbabwe and all its people, and I ask that you do this, not only today, but throughout Lent -- persevering in your prayers, as new circumstances with the power-sharing government unfold."

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