Posted by: Titus Presler | January 26, 2011

Pastoral Letter highlights worsening situation for Harare’s Anglicans

Further ominous developments for the legitimate Anglican Diocese of Harare in Zimbabwe are highlighted in the January 21 Pastoral Letter issued by the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya, Bishop of the Harare Diocese that is part of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and hence part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Gandiya reports a toughening of the stance of police against legitimate Anglicans using their own church buildings, the apparent connivance of other government departments, and threats to evict Anglican clergy from church properties.  While thanking the many members and congregations of other denominations that have offered hospitality to Anglican congregations, Gandiya also notes that the silence of many Zimbabwean Christians about the oppression of the Anglican community has given comfort to the renegade bishop and his supporters.  The text of the letter follows:

PASTORAL LETTER – 21/01/11

Beloved  Brothers and Sisters in the Diocese of Harare CPCA and friends,

Mukristu Usanete: Namata Urinde! – Christian seek not yet repose: Watch and Pray!

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is with deep concern that I write to you as Pastor of the faithful in the Diocese of Harare CPCA about the unnecessary prolonged suffering of our people at the hands of the police who continue to claim to be receiving orders “from above” to prevent us from using our church buildings in accordance with the Makarau judgement of January 2008 and reaffirmed by Mavhangira judgment of June 2010.

I have been deeply disturbed by three pieces of information which have come to light.

The first is in regard to a “new order from above” given to the police that our congregations should not be found anywhere within a 200-meter radius of any of our church buildings.  It is reported that those who go against this order and those sympathising with us should be severely dealt with. On Sunday, 16/01/2011, our congregation at St Andrews Church, Chipadze, in Bindura, which uses the grounds of the rectory where our priest lives for their services was harassed by Dr. Kunonga’s priest and two chief police inspectors buttressed by a truck load of fully armed riot police during service.  A number of our parishes that have their services in the rectory grounds or near their church buildings have already been informed of this new order by the police even though they have not produced documentary evidence of the Order.

The second is very alarming indeed as it is regarding the partisan involvement of other security branches in church matters. We are completely baffled by this disturbing new development.  It seems some security organs of our republic are working in cahoots to “crash” the Anglican Church which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion in Zimbabwe for “security” reasons best known to them. While it may be possible to continue to harass the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, let it be known that this action will not “crash” the faith of Anglicans who strongly believe in a loving and faithful God. As we have indicated before, we keep wondering whatever happened to our human and constitutional right to freedom of religion? It seems we have been condemned without being heard. Our accusers are listened to and believed while we do not get the chance to respond to the accusations. Do we not have a right to be heard?

The third is the claim by Dr. Kunonga’s priests that they have court orders to evict our priests from church rectories and any other church buildings they may still have had some control over. We are not aware of any new court orders to that effect. Several of our priests were harassed in the middle of the night last week by people claiming to be acting on behalf of Dr. Kunonga. The police seem to believe everything they are told by Dr. Kunonga’s people without checking with the courts. The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe has said that, “Court records are public documents. The Zimbabwe republic Police are free to come and inspect the record”. As far as we are concerned THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe has not yet made a determination on the matter of our Church properties.

It is with great pain and in light of our prolonged suffering, the disturbing new developments and the false claims about the courts having given everything to Dr. Kunonga that we write to urge the faithful in our beloved diocese to stand firm in the faith and to remain faithful to our loving and faithful God who never abandons us. In the words of St Paul to the Corinthian Church about his experience, we also urge you to put no obstacle in anyone’s way so that no fault will be found with your ministry. Commend yourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments . . . by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness of spirit, genuine love . . . For we are treated as imposters and yet are true (2 Corinthians 6:1-10).

The Old Testament Book of Esther is very relevant to our situation and we encourage all the faithful to read it. Pay particular attention to Haman’s evil plot to annihilate the Jews simply because one man Mordecai would not “kneel down and pay him honour” (Esther 3). Please take note of Mordecai’s challenge to Esther in Esther 4:12-14: “Who knows why you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Equally important, do not miss Esther’s role in the deliverance of the Jewish people. This is also our challenge to every member of our diocese in your varied callings. Prayer and fasting are crucial in our struggle for justice. Likewise, we are calling for a week of prayer and fasting beginning on the 1st February 2011.

To the Christian Community in Zimbabwe:
We would like to sincerely thank various denominations like the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, Reformed Church, Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ and Mugodhi Church, and others that I may have missed out, who have generously allowed some of our congregations to use their church buildings. We know that some of you have been threatened but have continued to offer us accommodation. Others have painfully told us to stop using their buildings after being threatened. We do not hold it against you. We understand the gravity of those threats and we would not want any denomination to go through what we are currently going through.

We would like to thank all those churches and organisations who have publicly stood in solidarity with us in our suffering, especially the Zimbabwe Pastors Conference. Our appeal to the Christian Community in Zimbabwe is not so much that you take sides with us even though we would appreciate it, but rather that you stand for justice, that you speak out against the unlawful arrests of our people; the beatings and tear-gassing of our congregations, the disruptions of church services, the flouting of Court Orders and partisan behaviour of the police and now the disturbing developments beginning to unfold. The deafening silence of the Christian Community has been interpreted and seen as siding with Dr Kunonga and those who persecute us.  While we know this to be untrue, those who have not heard the voice of the Christian Community in Zimbabwe speaking out publicly on these matters believe it to be true. May the voice of the Body of Christ in Zimbabwe be heard!

Finally:
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with exceeding joy; to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”.

Mukristu Usanete: Namata Urinde! – Christian seek not yet repose: Watch and Pray!
Soli Deo Gloria! Glory to God alone!

In the Lord’s Service,

+Chad Harare.
The Rt. Rev’d Dr. Chad N. Gandiya
Diocese of Harare CPCA
9 Monmouth Road
Avondale
Harare.
Zimbabwe

The letter has also been posted as a news item on the Anglican Communion website.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. With your personal involvement in Zimbabwe, this must be particularly agonizing.

    • Yes, it is, David. People are being beaten up, and the prevailing atmosphere of dread is hard for folks to live with. Dread pervades the country as a whole now in the run-up to the elections planned for this year, but the particular issues affecting Anglicans over the past several years now are unique among religious communities in Zimbabwe. The only comparable issue is the negativity that affected United Methodists when their late bishop Abel Muzorewa was running for governmental office during the 1980s. In the Anglican case, however, the legitimate Anglican leaders have no interest in injecting themselves into governmental politics. It is rather the government that is allying itself with renegade bishops and then making life very difficult – to the point of persecution – for the legitimate Anglican dioceses and their leaders.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: