Kiwi Bishops urge Govt action against Zimbabwe cricket tour

New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference President Bishop Denis Browne wrote to Foreign Minister Phil Goff in an effort to persuade him to encourage a cancellation of the scheduled New Zealand Black Caps cricket tour of Zimbabwe.

The message, signed by Bishop Browne on behalf of the Conference, suggested that it is "inconceivable that a team wearing a New Zealand uniform should play cricket in the midst of such horror, especially when the architect of the crisis is also the patron of Zimbabwean cricket".

It pointed out that the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a strong statement describing "Operation Restore Order" as a "grave crime", and asking how the government could unleash such violence on its own people. The operation has resulted in the demolition of homes, market stalls and other businesses. The UN estimates that at least 200,000 people have been made homeless and many thousands have been arrested.

The Bishops told Mr Goff: "We strongly support the actions you are taking with the UN, the Commonwealth and other international bodies and countries to bring about some resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe. The international community waited too long when the Rwanda crisis developed, and we fear that starvation and disease will overtake many Zimbabweans before there is effective international action."

The message follows a plea from the Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube for the New Zealand cricket team not to tour.

He told New Zealand radio: "The New Zealand team, if they have any respect for human life, for the Zimbabweans who are suffering...the New Zealand team would do well and honourably not to go to Zimbabwe."

Meanwhile in the UK, Independent Catholic News reports that the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has told The London Times that the Blair Government's insistance on the continued forced returns of Zimbabwean asylum-seekers to their country is a "gross injustice".

At least 57 Zimbabweans are on hunger strike in Britain in protest at their planned deportation to their country.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: "At the very least, a moratorium on returns should be observed while the international community attempts to get to grips with a fast-deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. I welcome indications today that the Government is reviewing the question, and that for the time being no Zimbabweans are, in fact, being sent home."

NZ Bishops on Zimbabwe and NZ Cricket (Catholic Communications NZ 29/6/05)
Black Caps should not tour - Zimbabwean archbishop (stuff.co.nz 30/6/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference | Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace

Zimbabwean archbishop says he's ready to die to defend people (CathNews 28/6/05)
Bishops denounce Zimbabwe "clean-up" (CathNews 20/6/05)
Zimbabwe Archbishop says priests bribed to keep silent human rights (CathNews 2/3/05)
Zimbabwe paper threatened over interview with Archbishop (CathNews 13/1/05)

Westminster: Cardinal speaks out on Zimbabwe (Independent Catholic News 29/6/05)
Cardinal urges Zimbabwe rethink (ZWNews/BBC 30/6/05)
"Cleanup" in Zimbabwe condemned (ABC Radio The Religion Report 29/6/05)

31 Jul 2005