The Archbishop of Canterbury shames our politicians
From the Vatican, Robert Mugabe receives the Eucharist. From the Archbishop of Canterbury, he receives a dossier of outrages and abuses he has perpetrated against Anglican dioceses over the past four years, which include ‘false imprisonment, violence, denial of access to churches, schools, clinics and mission stations’ at the behest of the excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga. Anglican leaders who refuse to submit to Mr Kunonga’s authority say they have been subjected to death threats, spied on by state agents and blocked from worshiping in their churches or burying the dead in Anglican cemeteries.
Canon Bruce Saunders (Southwark Cathedral) wrote a few months ago:
'We are beyond fear’ was the answer an Anglican bishop in Zimbabwe gave me ten years ago when I asked him how he and his people were coping with the relentless intimidation from the Zimbabwean Government, police and security forces. Since then the situation has dramatically deteriorated. Intimidation has become physical violence. Threats have turned into beatings, rape and murder. The people’s trust in the forces of law and order has been blatantly abused by repeated acts of injustice, and as the Bishop of Harare has said recently, ‘When the justice system and the police are themselves corrupt, who can we turn to for justice?’Robert Mugabe is not only deranged; he is evil. Opposition MDC supporters are routinely seized and subjected to terrible tortures, like having boiling plastic poured on their backs, their extremities burnt, or being nearly drowned in water tubs. And we are not talking of the death and torture of a few hundred; but the systematic persecution and slaughter of hundreds of thousands. It is reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing in Sudan: Anglicans and the MDC are seen to be in league with each other, and so both are ‘crawling maggots’ which must be eradicated. There is global protest against lesser crimes in Palestine: we leap to intervene against bloodshed in Libya. But the whole world is seemingly indifferent to Zimbabwe, and this leaves Mugabe confident, emboldened, omnipotent.
Anglican Church leaders continue to receive death threats, and believers are subject to violent harassment when they attempt to meet for worship. Churches, schools and mission hospitals are invaded and appropriated for the greater glory of Mugabe.
...With the forces of law and order complicit in the persecution, with no financial resources to mount a legal challenge in the courts, and with the West having largely lost interest in the intractable Zimbabwean situation, the Church in Zimbabwe can only wait and suffer until the close personal relationship between Mugabe and Kunonga comes to a natural end.
What fellowship can light have with darkness? The Archbishop of Canterbury is using his moral authority to persuade Mugabe to desist and repent. He denounces the injustices and demands change. It may not work, of course, but merely by visiting the land and speaking out, he manifests humanitarian conviction and moral fibre. He shames our politicians and eclipses other church leaders as he confronts face-to-face that which is largely ignored by the African Union, the British Government, the US, the EU and the UN. Indeed, the British Government have been at pains to distance themselves from the Archbishop’s mission, stressing that he is making the visit in a pastoral capacity rather than a political one. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "He is not a representative of the Government and his proposed meeting with Mugabe in no way reflects a change of Government policy."
No change in policy? What a damning admission that is. While HM Government and other world leaders turn a blind eye and abandon Zimbabwe's Anglicans, Dr Williams denounces the tyrant and injects a brief candle of light into the darkness; he instils a little hope in the pervasive despair.
Mugabe and Kunonga pretend this is a battle against homosexuality, and so they assert a legitimate theo-political schism. Significantly (and in an indirect warning to David Cameron), Dr Williams’ dossier includes the line: ‘We also totally reject the misrepresentation of our church as not holding to the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage. This is wholly untrue.’ So, no support for ‘gay marriage’ from the Established Church, then.
But noting the lack of solidarity and support from some quarters, the dossier concludes: ‘Our appeal to the Christian community in Zimbabwe is that all should stand up for justice, that all should speak out against the unlawful arrests of our people, the beatings and tear-gassing of our congregations, the disruptions of church services, the flouting of Court Orders and partisan behaviour of the police and now the disturbing developments beginning to unfold.’
There is strength in numbers, power in unity, influence in univocity. If only evil could be excommunicated.