Report: Zimbabwe Arrests Church Leaders Trying to Help the Poor

Eight Zimbabwean church leaders were arrested by armed police on Friday during the dedication service of the regional chapter of a church-based social advocacy network.

“More and more often we are seeing the activities of churches and relief agencies disrupted by government intimidation in Zimbabwe,” said Peter Grant, Tearfund’s international director, in a statement Monday.

Tearfund is a U.K.-based Christian relief and development agency.

“Church leaders dedicated to alleviating desperate poverty spent the weekend in police detention. This action is unacceptable when so much combined effort of the ZCA (Zimbabwe Christian Alliance) is committed to helping the poor.”

The dedication service for the Alliance was attended by over 500 Christian leaders in Kadoma, southwest of the capital Harare. They marked the launch of the regional chapter in a nationwide drive to establish Christian leaders’ networks in the country’s 10 provinces.

Arrested church leaders faced trial on Monday for allegedly inciting the crowd to violence.

ZCA said the allegation is “totally baseless” because the group’s goal is to “bring about peaceful social transformation in Zimbabwe.” ZCA aims to form platforms to equip Christian leaders with church-based advocacy and peace building skills.

“As Christian leaders no amount of intimidation will silence us as this would be tantamount to a denial of our faith and calling,” said Pastor Lucky Moyo, a ZCA spokesperson.

The arrests of the Christian leaders seeking to address the country’s poverty problem come at a time when the socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe has fallen to “alarming levels.” It is estimated that 80 percent of the population live below the poverty line and 80 percent of the people are unemployed, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“We condemn this latest act of wanton violation of fundamental human rights and disregard of freedom of religion,” said Moyo. “We demand that the government opens up democratic space and starts de-politicization and demilitarization of the public institutions to enable a peaceful social transformation in Zimbabwe.”