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By Nicolas Cervoni on 17.10.2023

Archbishop of Canterbury Visits Zimbabwe

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has returned from a pastoral visit to Southern Africa. At the core of this long trip were a sermon given in Harare in front of 15,000 people and a meeting with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, during which the Archbishop was accompanied by the Archbishops of Tanzania, Central Africa and Southern Africa.

A lot of controversy and expectation had arisen ahead of the trip, through which Dr Williams hoped to use his moral influence to stop persecution against Zimbabwean Anglicans by the government-supported faction of Dr Nolbert Kunonga. When the latter unilaterally appointed himself Archbishop of the province of Zimbabwe in 2008, he started an ongoing campaign of persecution against Zimbabwean Anglicans who refuse to join his faction.

The Archbishop presented President Mugabe with a dossier of the alleged abuses against Anglicans in Zimbabwe. The abuses detailed in the report included the following:
-Zimbabwean bishops receiving death threats by phone or in person.
-Access to churches being denied to preachers and followers.
-Police harassing and beating entire congregations
-The murder of an Anglican church member who refused to join Dr Kunonga’s church
-The eviction of priests from their rectories.

During a press conference following the meeting, Dr Williams claimed to be optimistic about the results. Robert Mugabe declared that he was not aware of the intensity of the persecution and promised to speak with Kunonga. Mugabe’s word being notoriously unreliable, such a promise appears to be a very weak success.

In fact, the Archbishop’s real achievement was the sermon given in Harare the day before, during which he denounced the “mindless and godless assaults” against the Zimbabwean Anglicans in front of 15, 000 enthusiastic followers, who cheered and applauded him. In doing so, he countered Kunonga’s attempts to discredit him by accusing him of being a neo-colonialist and a homosexual.

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NC’s analysis: Was this a real success?

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit has certainly spread hope and enthusiasm throughout the Anglican community, and has immediately had some impact. Indeed, in the days following Dr Williams’ visit, a community of Anglicans took back control over a church which had been stolen by Kunonga’s followers. However this may not last.
Indeed, ageing dictator Mugabe has led the country to absolute misery, and from a popular and charismatic anti-colonial leader he has become an isolated dictator, in desperate search for support. This situation may well lead him to cajole Kunonga, one of his rare supporters, in order to maintain his fragile position.

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What do you think of the Archbishop’s trip? Will it make a difference? Comment below or get in touch with us via Facebook (InQuire Live or Twitter (@inquirelive).

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