Presiding Bishop speaks out on crisis in Zimbabwe

epiScope is carrying a statement from the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori on the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe. The Presiding Bishop calls for action by the international community to ensure a fair resolution of the March 29 elections and to stand for an end to political violence, torture and human rights abuses. Joining with the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Capetown Jefferts Schori calls for an arms embargo.

Also see, Zimbabwe Anglicans face ‘communist-style’ persecution, says Zimbabwean bishop.

The Presiding Bishop’s complete statement follows:

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

Together with millions of people around the world, my heart has been drawn in recent months to the political and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Zimbabwe. The tragedy of that nation’s descent into internal chaos is magnified by the high sense of purpose and prosperity that a newly independent Zimbabwe brought to Africa and the world nearly three decades ago. Sadly, Robert Mugabe’s government has undermined that promise beyond recognition with its systematic repression of human rights, democracy, and economic opportunity for the people of Zimbabwe. The turmoil in the wake of Zimbabwe’s recent elections signals an urgent need for governments and other leaders in the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, and call for an end to this long hour of human suffering and the beginning of a new era of promise and opportunity.

In listening to the voices of bishops and other leaders in Zimbabwe and the region, I urge all Episcopalians to advocate for an international response with three components:

First, the international community must act to ensure a fair resolution of Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections. According to nearly all independent observers, those elections – if reported accurately – would reveal a strong majority in favor of removing the present government. Unfortunately, the electoral process has been so marred by government tampering, intimidation, and violence that the results reported last week – a narrow edge for the opposition that requires a run-off election – appear to be wholly without credibility. Moreover, unless neighboring governments and multinational institutions intervene to ensure electoral fairness, any run-off election would threaten even greater upheaval. Institutions with clout in the region – the government of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community, and the African Union – thus far have not mounted the massive pressure needed to ensure a fair electoral process for Zimbabwe’s people, and I join my brother bishops in the region in calling for urgent and creative action from these parties.

Second, all in the international community have a moral obligation to stand for an end to the political violence, torture, intimidation, and other human-rights abuses unleashed by the Mugabe government in the weeks since the elections. Government riot police raiding a meeting of the Anglican Mothers’ Union in Mbare is but one example of a pattern whose greatest abuses are far more shocking. Such repression is an affront to the dignity of every human being, and if left unchecked by Zimbabwe’s neighbors, threatens to plunge Zimbabwe into violence much more severe and widespread.

Finally, I join with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Archbishop of Cape Town, in calling for an international arms embargo against the government of Zimbabwe. The prospect of a more-heavily armed Zimbabwe not only further threatens the security and well-being of Zimbabweans, but would also deeply undermine the peace and stability of the whole region. I am deeply thankful for the recent and successful efforts of Bishop Rubin Phillip of Natal in South Africa to prevent the offloading in Durban of a Chinese ship carrying arms for Zimbabwe. This much-publicized incident reveals, however, the urgent need for the United Nations Security Council to impose an internationally enforced embargo that would prevent arms from reaching the Zimbabwean government and sanction any who try to provide such arms.

In seeking these responses from government leaders, I urge all Episcopalians to continue to pray, in the name of the Prince of Peace, for the people of Zimbabwe. In a land that has suffered so greatly in recent years as a result of 165,000 percent inflation, 80 percent unemployment, and poverty so drastic that life expectancy is now only in the mid-30s, the need for healing and transformation could not be more urgent. May God, “in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, and no strength known but the strength of love,” grant wisdom, courage, and strength to the people of Zimbabwe and to all who work for an end to that great land’s current strife.

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