Anglican Head Backs Amnesty Appeal for Imprisoned African Cleric

The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion has given his support to an appeal by human rights group Amnesty International for the liberation of the Rev Bienvenido Samba Momessori, a clergyman imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea for his peaceful political views.

Samba, pastor of the Church of Cherubs and Seraphs, was arrested on Oct. 26, 2003, and is being held under harsh conditions in Evinayong Prison in Equatorial Guinea without charge or trial. Food provisions in prisons across Equatorial Guinea are notoriously inadequate.

Amnesty International believes Samba was arrested solely on the grounds of his known peaceful political opinions and ethnic origin. The human rights group regards him as a prisoner of conscience.

In an article in this week's New Statesman, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who leads the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, attacked the “ongoing scandal of imprisonment without trial as a sanction against peaceful dissidents or ethnic minorities.”

“To let this go unchallenged in any area is to sell the pass for universal justice. And that is not an option for any religious person, or indeed anyone who thinks human dignities and liberties are more than a local arrangement for the convenience of the prosperous,” he said.

Williams went on to warn of the dangers religious leaders face as they risk being caught in conflicts between "minority ethnic groups and arbitrary national administrations, from the old South Africa to East Timor.”

“They deserve support from believers and unbelievers alike,” he said.

“The energy for political liberation and the health of civil society depends massively on the churches in a great number of divided and deprived nations.”