- (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)
Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams met with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Oct. 10 to discuss the persecution plaguing Anglicans in the South African country.
The religious oppression is a result of a power struggle between avid Mugabe supporter and ex-communicated archbishop of Harare Nolbert Kunongo and current official Archbishop Chad Gandiya.
Both Kunongo and Mugabe have large followings in Zimbabwe. They have been known for their conservative, scripture abiding beliefs concerning homosexuality.
Kunongo attributed his 2007 leave from the Anglican Communion as a result of relaxed homosexuality rules.
“We regard homosexual persons simply as human beings, as deserving of dignity and respect,” contended Archbishop Williams in a press conference.
During their 90-minute meeting in the presidential statehouse, Williams informed Mugabe of the persecution endured by mainstream Anglicans in South Africa.
“It was a very serious conversation with real exchange," said Archbishop Williams.
Kunongo is an ardent supporter of Mugabe, and Kunongo supporters have actively stunted Anglican worship in what Williams refers to as “unacceptable and illegal behavior,” including beating and arresting practitioners around Zimbabwe.
According to Archbishop Williams, President Mugabe asserted that he was not aware of how serious the abuse had become.
Critics noted one potential reason for Mugabe’s lack of acknowledgment towards the Anglican Church's plight in his country – his Catholic upbringing.
According to the Archbishop, during their meeting Mugabe repeatedly reminded Williams that Anglicanism is a “breakaway group from the Catholic Church.”
The meeting took place during William’s two-day visit to Zimbabwe.
Previously Williams spoke to 15,000 worshippers who had gathered for mass at the capital’s national stadium Sunday.
In his sermon, Williams compared Zimbabwe’s corrupt government with the “greed of colonialists and imperialists.”
The large audience cheered at his words. However, critics worried that his message would stifle an amicable meeting with the president Monday.
Williams urged his Anglican followers to remain strong in the face of oppression.
“But you know that the will of God to invite people to his feast [in heaven] is so strong it can triumph even over these mindless and godless assaults” he encouraged.
In response to Williams's arrival, ex-Archbishop Kunongo contended that the Anglican Archbishop "is coming to lobby for homosexuality."