11 October 2011

Zimbabwe: Anglican Leader, Mugabe Meet in Regional Tour

Photo: Lambeth Palace
Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, at a school during his visit to Central Africa. He later urged President Mugabe to end the persecution of the church in Zimbabwe.

Harare — The Archbishop of Canterbury on Monday asked President Robert Mugabe to end attacks on Anglicans in Zimbabwe, where a renegade bishop has forced the faithful out of their churches.

Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide, met for two hours with Mugabe at State House to lay out his concerns about the assault on the Church that has seen even teachers and nurses chased from schools and orphanages.

"We have asked in the clearest possible terms that the president use his powers as head of state to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behaviour," Rowan Williams told reporters afterwards.

"It was a very candid meeting, disagreements were expressed clearly, but I think in a peaceful manner," he said.

"We deeply deplore the manner in which many of the historic assets of the church... hospitals, schools have not only been seized by the breakaway group but are no longer used for the purpose for which were designed."

Mugabe, who at 87 has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, made no comments either before or after the meeting.

Williams later met with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's long-time rival who joined a unity government two years ago.

"The police must perfrom their duties in a non-partisan way. Cabinet made that decision very clearly that when it comes to praying the state has no role in the church but protect people when they do pray," Tsvangirai said.

Meanwhile, in Lusaka, Zambia's new president Michael Sata said the country needs lots of religious cleansing, when he met the head of the Anglican Church Archbishop Williams on Wednesday.

President Sata, 74, also told Archbishop Williams that some Zambians had elected a refugee as a legislator because of the previous Government's attempts to "rig elections".

During a meeting with Archbishop Williams, who is on the last leg of his three-African nation tour at State House in Lusaka, President Sata asked for more missionaries to come and preach in Zambia.

"I am very grateful for your coming to Zambia; we need lots of religious cleansing...give us missionaries," said President Sata, who was elected a fortnight ago.

Archbishop Williams, who toured neighbouring Malawi and Zimbabwe before coming to Zambia Tuesday, asked President Sata on Zambia's position on refugees.

In response, President Sata said Zambia had been looking after refugees for many years and would continue to do so.

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