Anglicans Express Horror at Plight of Zimbabweans

Anglican leaders meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, expressed "horror" after hearing firsthand reports about the suffering in Zimbabwe.

The primates, or leaders of national churches in the Anglican Communion, noted the "appalling difficulties" of people living under President Robert Mugabe's regime.

"We give thanks to God for the faithful witness of the Christians of Zimbabwe during this time of pain and suffering, especially those who are being denied access to their churches," they said in a statement.

"We wish to assure them of our love, support and prayers as they face gross violation of human rights, hunger and loss of life as well as the scourge of a cholera epidemic, all due directly to the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation in Zimbabwe."

Almost all of the 38 Anglican primates are meeting Feb. 1-5 for their annual gathering to discuss unity and other issues affecting the Anglican Communion. The political situation and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe were discussed in an evening session on the second day of the meeting.

In a Feb. 3 statement, the primates condemned Mugabe for holding onto power illegitimately after being defeated in last March's democratic elections and warned that the power sharing deal brokered by the South African Development Community may only further entrench his regime.

"There appears to be a total disregard for life, consistently demonstrated by Mr Mugabe through systematic kidnap, torture and the killing of Zimbabwean people," they said.

"We therefore call upon President Robert Mugabe to respect the outcome of the elections of 2008 and to step down. We call for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of democratic processes."

The primates have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa to commission a representative to go to Zimbabwe and "exercise a ministry of presence and show solidarity with the Zimbabwean people."

They are also urging the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa to facilitate a meeting with the president of the African Union and African leaders in the South African Development Community to highlight the plight of Zimbabweans.

Member churches of the Anglican Communion are being invited to join the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in observing a day of prayer and solidarity with Zimbabweans on Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.