Major Ecumenical Groups Plead for Zimbabwe Democracy

Six well-known ecumenical organizations banded together to call for the protection of the right to life, dignity and democracy of the people of Zimbabwe on Friday.

The general secretaries of the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World YMCA, the World Student Christian Federation and the World Alliance of YMCA's issued a joint statement calling for the protection of right to life and dignity of all Zimbabweans and "for adherence to democratic principles and processes in the mediation process and a return of the rule of law inside Zimbabwe."

Leaders issued the statement because they were "deeply disappointed and saddened" by the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) summit on Nov. 9 that failed to address the growing humanitarian crisis and challenge the illegitimate power of the current government.

"SADC leaders have let down the people of Zimbabwe who dutifully went to vote for a new government on March 29, 2008 and are today still waiting for a government of their choice," the letter read.

The Christian leaders added that it was time for "Africa's leaders to face up to each other with honesty and truth and take firm decisions that will provide a foundation for a durable solution to the protracted crisis in Zimbabwe."

Zimbabwe main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had won in the first phase of the election back in March, but the election commission said he failed to win the majority of votes needed to be declared president without a run-off election.

After a series of attacks and murders of opposition leaders, Tsvangirai dropped out of the run-off election citing the need to protect his party members. Incumbent president Robert Mugabe, who has been in power for 30 years, won the run-off election without competition.

The international community condemned the election as fraud and refused to recognize the Mugabe administration.

After much bitterness and distrust, the two sides agreed to govern together in a power-sharing deal in September. But Mugabe's party this week was accused of an assassination plot to eliminate top MDC leaders despite the unity government agreement, according to Agence France-Presse.

Tsvangirai under the unity government deal would be prime minister while Mugabe would retain his president post.

MDC this week also criticized the leaders of SADC for not addressing their concerns at the recent summit.

"Our issues were not addressed by SADC," MDC deputy leader Thokozani Khupe said, according to AFP. "All our issues were glossed over and narrowed down to the issue of the home affairs ministry."

Currently, Zimbabwe faces a nightmarish economic meltdown that is spiraling out of control with inflation at more than 231 million percent. Half of the population is in need of emergency food aid, and there is a deadly outbreak of cholera in the capital city of Harare due to lack of basic service.

Former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said will visit Zimbabwe next week in an effort to help the country's worsening humanitarian crisis.

"Relieving the suffering of millions of people must be the priority of Zimbabwe's leaders," Annan said in a statement. "But global attention is also slipping as Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis worsens."