ZIMBABWE: Anglicans pray outside as Mugabe bishop holds property

February 3, 2009

The head of Zimbabwe's Anglican Diocese of Harare, Bishop Sebastian Bakare, says his congregation is looking to divine intervention as renegade former bishop Nolbert Kunonga and a small breakaway faction deny worshippers access to church property.

 

"We have exhausted all channels," Bakare said in an interview quoted in the privately-owned Standard newspaper on February 1.

Kunonga is a staunch supporter of the leader of Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF Party, Robert Mugabe, who still clings to the presidency in his country despite international calls for him to step down.

In 2008, Kunonga was excommunicated from the Anglican church after he decided to break away from the denomination's central African region over what he said was its sympathy to homosexuals.

As its new head, the church appointed Bakare, who has criticized Mugabe for denying his people human rights and religious freedom.

Kunonga, however, later formed his own self-styled Anglican Province of Zimbabwe with a handful of followers and claimed ownership of all church properties. Late in 2008 Kunonga appointed priests for his church.

Despite several orders including a high court ruling that the Anglican church majority led by Bakare be allowed to share the properties with Kunonga's group, pending a final legal judgment, gangs of youths supporting Kunonga have barricaded church buildings denying access to worshippers.

Some of the faithful resorted to holding church services in the open air, or in buildings offered by other denominations.

"We will only fight through God as he knows what is best for his church and he is the one who can correctly distinguish between good and evil," Bakare was quoted as saying.

"They are conniving with some rogue members of the police force and working in unison to violate the high court judgment," Bakare said of the breakaway Anglican group. "We are not going to fight them. Prayer is the only solution."