From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Christian organizations prepared to send joint team to Zimbabwe

Date 26 Apr 2000 09:59:56

GENEVA, 26 April 2000

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) are prepared to send a pastoral team to Zimbabwe to support the
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) in its effort to provide ethical and
moral guidance for good governance in that country.

In a joint letter addressed to the ZCC general secretary, Mr. Densen
Mafinyani, the WCC general secretary, Dr. Konrad Raiser and the LWF
general secretary, Dr. Ishmael Noko refer to "this critical time of
decision-making" for the nation in view of recent violence and political
tension, and assure the churches in Zimbabwe of "our prayers, solidarity
and accompaniment."

In the letter dated 25 April, the general secretaries of two of the
world's leading international church organizations state: "The global
ecumenical fellowship that accompanied you through the daunting struggle
for independence of Zimbabwe and in the process of building a new nation
remains with you today."

Raiser and Noko particularly refer to a consultative meeting on 26 April
(today) in the capital Harare, which the ZCC has organized for leaders
of political parties in the southern African country, with the aim of
reflecting with them on their responsibilities to promote the common

Since last February, squatters said to be led by veterans of Zimbabwe's
independence war have been occupying white-owned farms. Commenting on
the resulting tension, Raiser and Noko express regret that in spite of
national and international outcry "the violence exercised with the tacit
approval of the Government has not subsided, but rather has taken more
lives and heightened tensions, further leading the country to the brink
of collapse of order and the rule of law."

In a six-point proposal, Raiser and Noko express their "own convictions"
that land ownership can only be democratized by ensuring "fair
distribution through a clearly defined, equitable and
democratically-controlled land reform." In this respect, the churches
have a moral and spiritual obligation to provide leadership and to
advocate on behalf of and uphold the rights of all especially the
powerless, the voiceless and marginalized.

Concerning an effective plan for land reform, the representatives of the
WCC and LWF express the need for a wise and careful review of the
commercial farming sector to ensure that the agro-based economy and farm
laborers are not unduly affected. They point to the plight of the
300,000 farm workers, some of them migrant laborers from neighboring
countries, and say the rights of such people "need to be protected."

"The rights of white farm owners who have chosen to remain in Zimbabwe
and to contribute to its development must also be respected," Raiser and
Noko state. They criticize the uncontrolled process of land occupation
"without a solid plan for land redistribution," saying this has led to
racial violence and the deaths of black and white Zimbabweans alike.

According to the proposals made by Raiser and Noko, a fair policy would
also ensure that the landless are compensated for the deprivation of
land by the colonialists, and landowners for the labor and capital
invested in developing the agricultural sector. In addition, they state
that the international community and especially the former colonial
power, Britain have an obligation to help finance the program for fair
and democratic distribution of land.

The leaders of the two world Christian bodies appeal to national and
international media to report "on the land debate and ensuing problems
dispassionately and in an objective and balanced way."

(The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries
representing nearly 59.5 million of the world's 63.1 million Lutherans.
Its highest decision-making body is the Assembly held every six or seven
years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by a 49-member Council,
which meets annually, and by its Executive Committee. The LWF
secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information is the information service of the Lutheran
World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted, material presented
does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation (lwi), the
material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

For further information on the joint press release, please contact:

lwi assistant editor (LWF) Pauline Mumia, e-mail:
Tel.: (+41.22) 791 63.54


WCC Media Relations Officer, Karin Achtelsteter, e-mail:
Tel.: (+41.22) 791.61.53 Mobile: (+41)

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