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Pastors Chide Top Zimbabwe Clergy for Silence on Rights Violations

Last month, 21 Zimbabwean clergymen were briefly detained while protesting police harassment of priests and disruptions of religious gatherings. Their protest followed growing criticism from Zimbabweans that the clergy had failed to take a strong stand against government human rights violations. The clergy are taking further steps to respond to the growing Zimbabwe crises.

Pastor Joseph Munemo of the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe says criticism of the clergy for its silence in the face of serious government human rights abuses is justified. But Pastor Munemo, who is the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference and who was one of the protesters last month, says some members of the clergy have been outspoken.

"I think the criticism is justified to an extent," he said, "but don't forget there is Archbishop Pius Ncube [of the Catholic church] who has been saying a lot things and his words were reaching human rights abusers but now we are starting something [new]."

Pastor Munemo says the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference was formed by ordinary clerics because there has been reluctance by most senior church leaders in Zimbabwe to confront the government over human rights abuses. "I cannot say they are afraid," he continued, "but the thing is, there is a lot of compromise within the leadership of the church, but the grassroots pastors definitely they are ready for action."

Pastor Munemo says the clerics will soon call a national day of action for the clergy to protest government oppression. He says the pastors will also urge ordinary Zimbabweans to protest by staying away from work and attending prayer services instead. He says the clerics will take that step so even though it is illegal in Zimbabwe to encourage people to stay away from work.