Zimbabwean Christians Rebuke State Media

Also Denounce Violence as Elections Approach

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HARARE, Zimbabwe, FEB. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A group of 17 Christian churches issued a statement denouncing violence and warning the state-sponsored media to stop demonizing its leaders as puppets of foreign governments and institutions.

The Bulawayo-based group included the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Word for Life, Apostolic Faith, Evangelical Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. Their warning comes as this southern African nation of 11.3 million braces for presidential elections next month.

State media today reported that the government has set up a task force headed by its feared intelligence chief to distribute emergency food imports, the Associated Press said. Opposition leaders said they feared that the move meant that food would be used as a tool to help President Robert Mugabe win the hard-fought elections scheduled for March 9-10.

Representatives of the Christian churches said they were concerned at Parliament´s approval of the Public Order and Security Act, which requires them to seek state permission to hold prayers in public.

The Chronicle newspaper accused Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo of politicizing the Church by turning his sermons into «political rallies.»

The churches also denounced the current culture of violence sweeping across the country. «We deplore, in the strongest terms, that it is acceptable to beat, rape, torture, harass and intimidate people going about their legitimate business,» they said.

The churches also expressed their solidarity with the families of those killed, injured, maimed and molested during violence and intimidation. «Widows, orphans and survivors are members of our Churches and communities; we extend to them our most sincere condolences,» the statement said.

«We are appealing to peace-loving Zimbabweans to go to the polls to exercise their constitutional right with a clear conscience in a free and fair manner,» it added.

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