From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
UCCanada United Church Calls for Prayer and Diplomatic Action for Zimbabwe
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 20:43:41 -0700
For Immediate Release -- Thursday, June 19, 2008
United Church Calls for Prayer and Diplomatic Action for Zimbabwe
Toronto: The United Church of Canada is inviting its congregations to
join with churches worldwide in celebrating a day of prayer for Zimbabwe
on Sunday, June 22. The invitation was extended by the World Council of
Churches in a letter this week to its member churches.
The day of prayer for Zimbabwe, which is an initiative of Christians in
the southern African country, is timed to take place shortly before the
runoff election for the presidency scheduled for Friday, June 27.
"It is impossible to overstate the importance of this election, its
fairness, its outcome and its aftermath," writes World Council of
Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia. "Events in
the coming weeks will challenge the people of Zimbabwe and the world to
find means of overcoming violence in the exercise of democracy, and the
results will influence the future of the nation and the region," he
Writing also to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the World Council
of Churches expressed continued concern about the situation in Zimbabwe
and asked the world body to use its resources to assure an end to
pre-election violence in the southern African country and a free and
fair election on June 27.
Referring to President Robert Mugabe's statement last week that he would
"go to war" rather than acknowledge an election victory by the
opposition, Kobia writes, "This attitude on the part of the president
undermines the integrity of elections and belittles the Zimbabwean
"Where the Mugabe government fails in its responsibility to protect the
Zimbabwean people, the international community must assume that burden;
in this endeavour, the United Nations should assume a leading role," the
WCC letter adds.
In a similar initiative, The United Church of Canada has sent letters to
the presidents of Zambia and South Africa and to Canada's Minister of
Foreign Affairs, urging the three men to redouble their efforts to
ensure that Zimbabwe's presidential election is free and fair.
Regrettably, the Government of Zimbabwe appears to be refusing to comply
with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Guidelines and is
turning a blind eye to, if not orchestrating, a campaign of
election-related violence across the country.
In a letter to Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who is also the
President of the SADC, the United Church states that some of its
partners in Zimbabwe have reported many acts "of politically motivated
violence...including the torture, killing, and jailing of opposition
party officials and supporters and the withholding of desperately needed
food aid to influence people to vote for President Robert Mugabe." For
security reasons these partners cannot be named, but similar reports
have been filed by Zimbabwean human rights groups and Amnesty
The United Church urges both President Mwanawasa and South African
President Thabo Mbeki to use their considerable influence within SADC to
ensure that the regional body presses Zimbabwe to abide by the SADC
election guidelines. "This would include ensuring freedom of access by
all parties to all areas of the country, equal access to the media, and
campaigning that is peaceful and free of the violence that prevails at
the moment," the letters state.
SADC can also act to ensure that election results are again posted
outside polling stations and that the numbers of SADC election observers
are scaled up considerably, the letters add.
"Indeed, we believe that SADC observers should be on the ground in
Zimbabwe now to monitor the pre-election environment and that they
should stay until the election results have been released," comments
Gary Kenny, The United Church of Canada's program coordinator for
In the letter to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Emerson,
the church calls on the Government of Canada to use its diplomatic
offices to press SADC heads of state to enforce the SADC election
guidelines. "If the SADC Guidelines are enforced by SADC members and
respected by the Zimbabwean government, there is a good chance that the
June 27 presidential election will be free and fair," the church says.
If not, "we fear that the elections will sentence the people of Zimbabwe
to yet more economic hardship and misery and the entire region of
Southern Africa to growing political instability."
The United Church's three letters also draw attention to the Zimbabwean
government's ongoing interference with domestic and international aid
organizations that are trying to deliver urgently needed food aid. In
Zimbabwe during election time, food is often used as a political weapon.
For more information, please contact:
The United Church of Canada
416-231-7680 ext. 2016 (office)
1-800-268-3781 ext. 2016 (toll-free)
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