Zim police break up church services

Zimbabwean police disrupted several Anglican Church services in Harare on Sunday, arresting at least three priests and a number of parishioners opposed to a pro-government bishop, a church official claimed on Sunday.

The priests were dragged out of church because they were conducting services without the authorisation of the police or that of Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who is a staunch supporter of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party, according to the church official.

Police have not confirmed the arrests. The Harare diocese of the Anglican Church has been torn apart since Kunonga pulled the church out of the Church Province of Central Africa (CPCA)—ostensibly because he opposed the province’s stance on homosexuality.

The CPCA replaced Kunonga with Bishop Sebastian Bakare and said Kunonga was no longer a member of the Anglican Church. But Kunonga and his followers have refused to recognise the new bishop’s appointment.

Police paramilitaries in riot gear and carrying batons disrupted a service at St Elizabeth church in Harare’s middle-income suburb of Belvedere, said church spokesperson Christopher Tapera.

“They disrupted the service and asked everyone to leave.
One woman who was taking a video was arrested,” he said.

Police this week sent a circular to all parishes ordering that only priests loyal to Kunonga were allowed to conduct services, he said.

“Police cannot interfere with the running of the church unless there is violence,” insisted Tapera.

At St James Church in the suburb of Warren Park, 16 parishioners loyal to Bishop Bakare were arrested, said Tapera. He did not know if charges had been brought against the arrested.

One of the priests, who was arrested at the Anglican Church in Harare’s upmarket Marlborough suburb was later released, said Tapera.

Police at St Luke’s Church in Greendale eventually allowed Bishop Bakare to hold a service in the church hall, while Kunonga held a service inside the church, he said.

“The hall was packed. Kunonga only had three people with him in the church,” claimed Tapera.

Meanwhile, Kunonga has announced that he is creating a new Anglican Church province, the Church Province of Zimbabwe, official media reported on Sunday.

Kunonga announced his decision at a press conference on Saturday.

“History has been made today,” the state-controlled Sunday Mail quoted Kunonga as saying, adding, “We have formed our own province. It has been painful and sorrowful but out of that came the joy of our own province,” he said.

Bakare spokesperson Tapera described the move as a “mockery”, insisting that the Harare diocese was still part of the central African church province, which groups Anglican churches in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. ‒ Sapa-DPA

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