Mugabe clamping down on churches – US

Posted on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:19

The United States has accused the Zimbabwean government of restricting freedom of worship and religion to maintain a stranglehold in politically contested areas.

According to recently released International Religious Freedom Report for Zimbabwe, police often uses harsh and controversial security laws to prevent church groups critical of government from meeting.

Clergymen who attempt to speak against President Robert Mugabe’s policies, state-sponsored repression, violence and economic mismanagement are followed with a sledge hammer, the report said.

“Government officials harassed religious leaders who were critical of government policies, or individuals who spoke out against human rights abuses committed by the government, and organised public rallies centering on social and political issues,” the report says.

An excommunicated Anglican church leader close to Mugabe has been evicting priests and worshipers from church premises across the country as part of a schism over gay marriage.

Bishop Nolbert Kunonga was in 2007 ex-communicated by the church and formed his, has in recent months been grabbing buildings, church bank accounts and vehicles after winning a court case against his rivals.

Worshipers are now forced to congregate under shades of trees after they were barred by Kunonga with the support of police loyal to Mugabe from using their churches.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has asked for a meeting with Mugabe next month to address the problems.

Churches have clashed with Mugabe over his human rights record and ruinous economic policies.

But the veteran Zimbabwean ruler accuses the clergy of pushing a regime change agenda at the behest of his Western foes.

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