Zimbabwe: Bishop Chad of Harare - 'Those Who Have Wronged Us Are Not Our Enemies'

press release

Members of the Press, I want to warmly greet you all in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and welcome you to our temporary home here in Avondale.

We gather here to share with you our Supreme Court victory on Monday 19 November 2012 following a five year legal battle with those who left the Church on 21 September 2007 but refused to relinquish our properties, and have continued to occupy our Church buildings.

While we acknowledge the untold suffering of our clergymen and their families, parishioners and many others went through, we are grateful that God was with us throughout. Evidently, if God is on our side who can be against us? We prayed, we waited and finally we have been vindicated.

Since September 2007, congregations in the Diocese of Harare have not had access to our Church buildings. We have had to rent space for all our activities even worshipping under trees and in open grounds.

This eviction from our Church buildings and other properties marked the beginning of our exile, just as the children of Israel were forced into Babylonia, led at the beginning by Retired Anglican Bishop Sebastian Bakare.

This has been a serious challenge to the Anglican clergymen and their wives, parishioners, and authorities in our various institutions who had to adapt to new circumstances of living in constant fear of being harassed, being persecuted by your brothers who had decided on their own to leave the Church. When we started on this exilic journey, we knew that our salvation lay in the hands of our God and we encouraged each and every one of us to hold on to true and pure faith. So we had hope. We are prisoners of hope! This is why we say, "Mukristu Usanete, Namata Urinde!" Christian seek not yet repose, watch and pray!) whenever we gather together.

Today we declare to you that the exile is over. But in the words reminiscent to Nehemiah, we say to you: You see the trouble we are in. Harare Diocese lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the walls of Harare Diocese, and we will no longer be in disgrace. Now that we have won this battle in the Supreme Court, we have to rebuild the Diocese of Harare. This marks the beginning of another very complicated and painful process of consolidating our work as a Church providing health services, education, food security, ministering to those afflicted with HIV/Aids, the widows and orphans; and to enrich our members in continuing theological education among the ordinary Anglicans, spiritual growth through worship and faithfully preaching the Gospel of the risen Christ.

As a Diocese, we remain humbled by the dedication shown by Anglicans who persevered under very difficult circumstances. We want to thank our Ecumenical Partners, the various denominations in Harare that have assisted us, all Anglicans and non-Anglicans local and worldwide who continued to believe and pray with us. Our hearts pour out also for those who were too traumatised with being Anglicans and sought spiritual homes in other churches.

Across the Diocese, since our victory in the Supreme Court, we have met the Church leadership, the Church wardens and the Clergy to discuss various issues that now confront us as we begin to restore Harare.

To officially start using our Church buildings for services, the Church has planned to have a Thanksgiving Service in the Africa Unity Square on Sunday 16 December 2012 from 9am where Anglicans from across the Diocese and our friends will come and witness the return of the Bishop's Chair from Exile, and is restored in the Anglican Cathedral. There will be cleansing and rededication of the Cathedral and all parish buildings to what they should be,- holy places, buildings set apart for the worship and glorification of our true living God - which were desecrated when we were forced into exile. As part of the rebuilding and restoration process, the Anglican Diocese of Harare CPCA is instituting legal proceedings to ensure that our scattered priests and their families are restored to the Church rectories, and our congregations are restored to their places of worship, and those who have occupied our properties have to be evicted without further delay.

Church leadership at parish levels have been taking stock of everything at the Church buildings, consolidating the inventories to ensure that every item that has ever belonged to the Church is properly accounted for and documented. Items that are found missing will be also recorded and police reports would be made to ensure that there is accountability and transparency in all these processes of restoration and rebuilding. While the prospects of recovering the looted items might be remote, efforts would be made to ensure that those who illegally occupied our Church buildings, and caused Anglicans significant suffering are properly rehabilitated following an admission of their transgressions, and restoration of our assets.

Utility bills have not been paid so as we repossess our assets, we shall be engaging with the local authorities to ensure that debt at these institutions is properly assigned to those responsible. The Church cannot be asked to settle outstanding debts owed by illegal occupants, whose illegality has now been confirmed by the courts. Efforts are being made to consolidate our assets' inventories, and we shall be quantifying the monetary value.

For the record, we are all humans prone to making mistakes in our lives. Those who wronged us are not our enemies because we all share in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God. We have a gospel mandate to forgive and I am appealing

to all our members to dig deep in their hearts and find the will to forgive. Remember we are also forgiven sinners. All those who want to worship with us are most welcome to come. We will follow our own church rules regarding coming back and restoration of those who backslide and want to come back.

God has been gracious to us and we also must be gracious to others. We are Christians and they will know we are Christians by our love.

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