Live: telling Zimbabwe’s story

By Jim Naughton

The afternoon press conference–held before the interview with Sudan’s Primate Daniel Deng, which will bump it out of all of tomorrow’s papers–featured the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare of Harare in Zimbabwe. He spoke of the persecution of his church by the regime of Robert Mugabe. Bakare succeeded the deposed Mugabe-supporter, Nolbert Kunonga, who was kept in office by the former primate of Central Africa, Bernard Malango, whom the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed to the panel that produced the Windsor Report.

Bishop Bakare spoke of police surrounding his churches to keep worshipers out. “I was never, never so conscious of the importance of peace and justice as preached in the Gospel,” he said, adding that he could no longer preach a sermon to a Zimbabwean congregation without mentioning peace and justice.

The bishop skillfully avoided the media’s attempts to get him to make a statement about the issue of homosexuality. “We’ve got different issues,” he said. “In Zimbabwe, our issues are poverty, unemployment, no medication… these are the burning issues in Zimbabwe. At the present moment, we have the problem of being oppressed by a system.”

He also avoided the Rev. Chris Sugden, on GAFCON’s attempts to get him to criticize the presentation last night by the American Brian McLaren. One feature of church press conferences is that activists with blogs and news letters are included among the media, a practice not much in evidence in the secular world. The result is long and usually poorly played games of gotcha that unfold with soporific predictability.

Much of the remainder of the conference was consumed by an argument between the media and the conference spokesman Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia about whether a list of those attending the conference would eventually be produced. The conference organizers didn’t help themselves by saying this morning that every province except Uganda was represented, and then backtracking to take Nigeria off of the list. The rationale for withholding names—Is it security? Is it privacy?—has also shifted. I expect this will figure prominently in tomorrow’s coverage. Or today’s starting with the report in the Anglican Journal.

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