11 Christians Released in Zimbabwe; Rally Set for Saturday

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, FEB. 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Eleven church leaders arrested Feb. 16, following a series of prayer meetings, have since been released, Compass Direct reported.

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Meanwhile, preparations are being made for a massive Christian rally in Bulawayo on Saturday to pray for peace and for the forthcoming elections. Organizers fear that police intimidation will cause fewer Christians to attend.

Relatives who visited the Christian detainees last Sunday found them in good spirits and «proud to be in prison for Christ.» The Christians were released on bail of $1,000 each.

The 10 men and one woman had been taking part in a series of interdenominational services in suburban Hillside, organized by four churches to pray for peace in the upcoming presidential elections. The elections are due to start March 9.

The participants planned to march from church to church in silent protest at the widespread political violence taking place in Zimbabwe. Anglican minister Noel Scott warned them at the first church that the police had forbidden the march for security reasons. So the decision was made to drive between the churches.

At the end of the final service, Scott, who had been leading the prayers, was arrested by the police and detained under the Public Order and Security Act.

This new law is intended to control public demonstrations, and critics of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union party say that the recently passed law gives police unlimited power to stifle public protests and imprison opposition leaders.

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