Zimbabwe Christian Leaders Say Situation Deteriorating

The heads of Christian bodies in Zimbabwe voiced their "deep concern" this week over the country's continuous downward spiral following the disputed national elections.

Church leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches lamented that the political, security, economic and human rights situation are all deteriorating.

"People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the 'wrong' candidate and should never repeat it in the run-off election for President, and, in some cases, people are murdered," the church leaders said in a statement.

Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change claims at least 90 of its supporters have been killed since the March 29 election.

In addition to violence, the humanitarian situation is also cause for alarm, they noted. The cost of basic living has moved beyond the reach of the majority of Zimbabweans due to inflation and unemployment, among other factors. Famine is also widespread due to poor harvests and delays in importing maize from neighboring countries.

"The shops are empty and basic foodstuffs are unavailable," the leaders informed. "Victims of organized torture who are ferried to hospital find little solace as the hospitals have no drugs or medicines to treat them."

Zimbabwe's church leaders urge the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations to work towards ending the political and security problems in Zimbabwe. They warned that if nothing is done, Zimbabwe will witness another genocide experience like Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the leaders advised, should also release the true results for the first phase of the presidential election on March 29. Reports show that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won more votes in the March presidential election, but fell short of the majority needed to be declared president.

"At this difficult time in our nation, we urge you to maintain and protect your dignity and your vote," Zimbabwe's church leaders urged the country's people. "We urge you to refuse to be used for a political party or other people's selfish end especially where it concerns violence against other people, including those who hold different views from your own."

Zimbabweans and those concerned are asked to continue to pray for the country. The church leaders vowed as "shepherds of God's flock" they will continue to speak on behalf of Zimbabweans that are suffering.

Robert Mugabe, who claims to have been re-elected in June to a sixth consecutive term as president, has led the country from one of Africa's best economies to a meltdown that includes the world's highest inflation rate and a staggering 80 percent unemployment rate.

Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office on Wednesday announced that it now has a 2.2 million percent inflation rate, up from about 165,000 in February.