Riot police at the altar, but Bishop of Harare carries on

The Times reports that despite the provocations of riot police in church, Zimbabwe’s Anglican bishop, Sebastian Bakare, celebrated communion this past Sunday:

In front of the church’s first full congregation for years Bishop Bakare told the representative of Zimbabwe’s security services: “If you want to attack me, I am in your hands.”

A fortnight ago the Church secured an affidavit from Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, in which denied knowing anything about a police operation to force Anglicans away from their churches. It was read to parishioners by Anglican priests wherever they met, and they were urged to return to their churches on Sunday.

Emboldened by the formation of the new power-sharing Government, the church’s flock is now beginning to return in force.

Read it all here.

Update: We have received a further description from Anglican Information,

This morning two or three hundred of us got to St.Peter’s to find the police already there. This was somewhat expected as yesterday when the youth came to tidy up the church garden, Muzambi sent for the police and they were sent away. Later on the same thing happened to the Mothers Union. Today we did not even get to the car park as two police in helmets were stationed in the road. One a young girl with glasses seemed to taking practice swings with her truncheon. Later another policeman moved their car across the road to the annoyance of residents further down the cul de sac.

It was interesting to observe the different way people behaved. Most just stood quietly in the road, but a group of about ten Mothers Union members surrounded another woman policeman, all shouting at her at the same time, some raising their arms. She just stood her ground and tried to talk to them but the noise was too great. In contrast some of the senior men took the Member in Charge away from the noise and they talked quietly. The church warden had a copy of the affidavit from the Chief of Police stating that he had never turned anyone out of church. It was agreed they should go together to the Central Police Station to look for the Inspector who had ordered that no Anglicans were to be allowed into their churches today.

At this point it began to rain so we all moved away and went to the Hall of a local school. The headmistress is fortunately a member of our congregation, and was in the crowd. The altar cloth, candles and chalices which were in someone’s car were quickly put out and we had a very nice Eucharist. The church warden returned from town and reported that the whole city police force appeared to be involved in trying to prevent Anglicans from worshipping in their church buildings! He heard conversations with the group of police sent to Mabvuku where Bishop Bakare was celebrating. I have since heard that the Bishop is all right, and they managed to have the service. But I have also heard that at St Mary’s Chitengwiza, Harare’s satellite town, some Anglicans were beaten and have been arrested. Human rights lawyers have gone out there.

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