From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
International Church Communicators Continue Mission to Malawi
"Frank Imhoff" <FRANKI@elca.org>
Thu, 30 Jan 2003 10:55:58 -0600
Accusations Dismissed, Authorization to Remain in Zimbabwe
GENEVA, 30 January 2003 (LWI) - The team of international church
communicators, detained by Zimbabwean police while visiting
Lutheran relief projects, left Zimbabwe on Wednesday, January 29.
They are continuing the second part of their visitation program,
which will take them to relief and development programs and
projects of the Evangelical Lutheran Development Program/Lutheran
World Service. They will also meet with Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Malawi Bishop Dr Joseph Bvumbwe.
The group, travelling under the auspices of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF), was searched by police on Friday evening,
January 24, after they had checked into a hotel in the mining town
of Zvishavane, approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of
the Zimbabwean capital of Harare.
The five communicators from Kenya, Finland, the United States of
America and Germany were, according to the state-controlled
Zimbabwean newspaper the "Sunday Mail", "suspected of being
journalists sent into the country to secretly write stories aimed
at tarnishing the image of the government."
Under present Zimbabwean law it is an offence punishable by two
years in prison to work as a journalist without state permission,
but this legislation applies neither to churches and church
organizations nor to church communicators. The LWF had officially
registered the group under the latter category.
Even before any court hearing came to be, the local magistrate on
Tuesday, January 28, dismissed all accusations against the five
detainees. The local journalist who had been traveling with the
group was also released. The police then escorted the group back
to Harare where its members were met by the Zimbabwean immigration
authorities. They then resumed their trip on their pre-scheduled
flight to Malawi.
According to information received at LWF headquarters in Geneva on
Wednesday, January 29, the group was not deported, but
authorization for its members to remain in the country was simply
The trip was organized by the LWF in preparation for its upcoming
Tenth Assembly that will take place in Winnipeg, Canada, July
21-31, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." The
organizers intended to draw attention to issues related to
HIV/AIDS and food shortages in southern Africa, and the need for
global support for the ongoing relief and development work in the
"It is our role as an international church organization to raise
awareness of humanitarian need in areas that tend to be forgotten
leading to chronic under-funding. Visitation programs are an
important factor in securing life-saving funds," said LWF General
Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko.
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information
service.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.]
* * *
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