Zimbabwe bishops end "criminal silence" on Mugabe

As the Pax Christi peace movement calls for prayer and action for Zimbabwe, a local political analyst says that a pastoral letter by the country's bishops calling for the removal of the Mugabe regime may help end the crisis.

John Makumbe, a Zimbabwean political commentator and Mugabe critic, told Reuters that local Christian leaders could play a large role in finding a solution to the crisis.

"I think after such a long silence, a criminal silence in my view, the Catholic bishops have woken up to this disaster, and the other church leaders will probably do the same soon and help sort out this crisis," Mr Makumbe said.

Other political analysts also believe that the Church's sharp criticism of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe could have a greater influence in persuading him to discuss political reform than a mass of attacks from elsewhere, Reuters says.

Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops accused Mugabe and his officials of running a bad and corrupt government and abusing the political rights of Zimbabweans in a pastoral letter posted in churches throughout the southern African nation during Easter.

Neither Mugabe, a practising Catholic, nor his officials have publicly responded to the warning from Zimbabwe's Catholic Bishops' Conference that radical reforms were needed to avert a mass uprising in the economically-strapped country.

"The pastoral letter presents a new challenge to Mugabe and will probably help persuade him that he needs to be talking about electoral and constitutional reforms, too, as pressure is mounting on him," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

"The Catholic bishops bring a new moral authority to the Zimbabwe crisis, which Mugabe cannot simply dismiss offhand by suggesting that they are supping with his Western enemies," he added.

Mugabe, who counts a number of Catholic priests among his friends, has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to political critics within the Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Pax Christi International has launched a call for a day of prayer and action on 14 April for Zimbabwe in solidarity with the Zimbabwe bishops and the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference.

Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has also urged the people to stage peaceful demonstrations to call for the president's resignation.

Catholic pressure may sway Mugabe to reform - analysts (Reuters Africa, 10/4/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Robert Mugabe (Wikipedia)
Pius Ncube (Wikipedia)

Zimbabwe dialogue still possible, African bishops say (CathNews, 4/4/07)
"Ready to face bullets", Zimbabwean archbishop says (CathNews, 23/3/07)
Zimbabwe Church accuses S Africa over failure to act (CathNews, 21/3/07)
Zimbabwe prayer meeting crushed (CathNews, 13/3/07)
Millions facing starvation in Zimbabwe , Archbishop warns (CathNews, 28/11/06)
Archbishop's report exposes Zimbabwean homelessness debacle (CathNews, 1/9/06)
Zimbabwe's anti-terrorism bill threatens freedom, says Justice and Peace director (CathNews, 28/7/06)
Bishops denounce Zimbabwe "clean-up" (CathNews, 20/6/05)

11 Apr 2007