Anglican Chief Asks Mugabe to Stop Church Attacks

Posted October 10th, 2011 at 5:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The head of the worldwide Anglican church has asked Zimbabwe's president to stop what he calls persecution of church followers in the country.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met with President Robert Mugabe Monday during a two-day stop in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

Archbishop Williams said he presented Mr. Mugabe with a dossier describing abuses that include intimidating local Anglicans and seizing church properties and asked him to use his powers to end the “unacceptable and illegal behavior.”

The archbishop later met with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a long-time rival of Mr. Mugabe who joined an internationally-negotiated unity government in 2009.

Mr. Tsvangirai said the state has no role in religion, but he said it is obliged to protect people when they pray.

A Zimbabwean Anglican bishop, Nolbert Kunonga, broke with the church and formed a breakaway faction in 2007. Since then, supported by a ruling from Zimbabwe's Supreme Court, he and his supporters have seized control of all church properties in Harare, including an orphanage. He has also forced the eviction of nuns and priests who do not recognize his faction.

Kunonga says he was wrongly excommunicated because he opposed homosexuality. Archbishop Williams maintains Kunonga is using this as an excuse to seize church properties. He said he reiterated to President Mugabe that the Anglican church does not bless homosexual marriages – and President Mugabe pledged to speak with the renegade bishop.

Archbishop Williams is on a three-nation tour of southern Africa. Last week he was in Malawi. He travels next to Zambia before heading home to Britain.