Archbishop of Canterbury Looks to Ease Zimbabwe Church Violence

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is hoping to help alleviate conflict over church properties during a visit to Zimbabwe in October.

Since 2007, the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been in a state of upheaval, stemming from some being opposed to a seemingly liberal stance on homosexuality.

At that time Bishop Nolbert Kunonga attempted to remove the head of the Diocese of Harare in the country.

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The following year, Kunonga was excommunicated from communion. However, a close relationship with controversial Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe allowed him to take control of various church properties.

The Anglican Journal reports that the matters have recently taken a violent turn.

Kunonga was recently granted authority over various Anglican church properties in a court ruling. However, he has reportedly chosen unethical and violent ways to remove priests and worshippers from the properties, according to The Anglican Journal.

In a press release from the Diocese, the violent turn of events in the Zimbabwe church community was detailed.

"Clergy and members of the laity belonging to the Anglican Diocese of Harare (CPCA) across Harare, Mashonaland West, East and Central have been receiving threats, constant harassment and lately severe beatings from Kunonga's hooligans, masquerading as clergy, accompanied by 'certainly hired thugs,’” the press release stated.

"The latest casualty is Reverend Jonah Mudowaya who was severely assaulted in Chinhoyi on Wednesday 24 August."

Chad Gandiya, the current bishop officially recognized by the Anglican Communion, said police in the country have been aiding Kunonga and leaving some with no place to worship.

"There are parishioners being banned from church buildings by Kunonga with help of the police,” Gandiya told the Harare Daily News. “They are worshipping in open spaces, under trees or booking other church buildings."

During Williams’ visit, the archbishop will attempt to develop better relations in the country by speaking with President Mugabe.

According to Marie Papworth, media director at Williams’ office, the archbishop will make the trip “a pastoral visit to show support for the Anglican Church there.”

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