From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Reporter, Others Released from Detention in Zimbabwe

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Tue, 28 Jan 2003 16:42:36 -0600


January 28, 2003


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A section editor for The Lutheran, the magazine
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and colleagues
from Europe and Africa who were detained by authorities in Zimbabwe,
were released Jan. 28, said the Rev. David L. Miller, editor for The
     Kathleen Kastilahn, Chicago, who edits the "People and Faith"
section of the magazine, and as many as seven others were part of a
Lutheran World Federation trip to Zimbabwe to report on Lutheran-
sponsored aid and development projects.  They were detained at their
hotel in Zvishavane, 250 miles from Harare, because authorities believed
they were operating as journalists without proper accreditation, Miller
said.  However, charges against the group were dropped before they were
to appear in court, he said.
     Miller was informed of the group's release by the Rev. Mark S.
Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, who is in Colorado attending church
meetings.  Hanson was informed of their release by the Rev. Ishamel
Noko, LWF general secretary, Geneva, Switzerland, who worked with the
Zimbabwean authorities to resolve the situation.  Hanson and Miller also
credited U.S. State Department personnel in Zimbabwe for their
     "We are deeply thankful that the church truly is the body of
Christ," Miller said in a message to ELCA churchwide office colleagues
here.  "'Body' is no mere metaphor, but a living reality that acts and
reacts that the whole and its parts may live.  This certainly occurred."
Church members and leaders from around the globe mobilized to help, he
     "I pray we may show the same solidarity in the body for the
suffering in places like Zimbabwe that they have shown for Kathy and her
colleagues," Miller added.
     Others in the group included one person from Finland, one from
Kenya and two from Germany, Miller said. Three from Zimbabwe -- a
reporter for the Harare-based Daily News, and two Zimbabwean drivers
with Lutheran Development Services -- were also detained, according to a
report from Ecumenical News International (ENI), Geneva.
     Following its release, the group was to return immediately to
Harare -- where group members began their visit Jan. 24   and will leave
the country Jan. 29, Miller said.  It is unclear whether they are being
deported, he said.   The group's next stop was to be in Malawi, but
Miller said he did not know if the group intended to complete the trip
which was planned through Feb. 2.
     New laws approved last year by President Robert Mugabe require
journalists to apply for licenses in Zimbabwe and essentially bar
foreign journalists from working there, Miller said.  The group was
detained at its hotel in Zvishavane Jan. 24, after visiting some project
sites in Zimbabwe.
     The ENI report said the tour was organized to highlight projects
in advance of the LWF Assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in July.
     On Monday, Jan. 27, Kastilahn told the Reuters news agency that
the group was "waiting to give a statement to police in the company of
our lawyer.  We are not under guard but we have been told to stay at the
     Noko said the Zimbabwe action against the foreigners was a
misunderstanding, and he hoped authorities would make it easy for the
communication officers to continue.
     The LWF paid 500,000 Zimbabwe dollars in bail for the foreign
church workers, equal to nearly $9,000 in U.S. currency, said a report
by the YLE News agency of Finland.  It said the group was detained after
one member was stopped by police because there was a journalist's stamp
in his passport.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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