Church leaders in Zimbabwe have asked Christians around the world to pray for their country, and called for there to be no violence ahead of elections taking place on July 31.
The ecumenical Zimbabwean Council of Churches (ZCC) has written an open letter requesting that political leaders avoid the bloodshed which marred elections in 2008.
"Men and women of faith should play a positive role in maintaining sanity in all political processes. We must avoid bloodshed, abductions and other forms of violence that characterized the June 2008 elections," they said.
"Today the nation of Zimbabwe is at cross-roads; a decisive moment, commonly called Kairos in theological terms, when God’s people are faced with making life changing choices as they seek God’s guidance.
"Our prayer is that even those who suffered this trauma will still see the value of voting. Our campaign must instil confidence to people who are living in fear because of memories of the last elections."
The church leaders express concerns regarding attempts to divide churches for political gain, with some faith leaders being forced to attend political meetings. Other fears raised include state owned media bias, human rights violations, and the increasing difficulty for women and young people trying to vote or engage in the political process.
The ZCC, which works with Christian Aid to prevent violence and promote peace, also asked Christians to stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and remember them in their prayers. ‘We call on the entire Church in the region and the world to pray for peace, to be prophetic and exercise its pastoral responsibility and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.’
They added: "When the time comes, let us pray first, and then go to the polls, hoping and trusting God to use that process to choose the next generation of leaders and government.
"Zimbabwe needs God fearing and peace-loving leaders: not corrupt and evil rulers."
Christian Aid’s Country Manager for Zimbabwe, Miriam Machaya, confirmed that tensions are running high. "We are looking forward to a free, fair and credible election, but we also getting increasingly engulfed by a growing sense of worry and trepidation emanating from the poor management of recent electoral processes.
"Thousands of potential voters, especially young people in the cities, have been disfranchised through failure to register as voters. This has created a mass of discontented young people.
"In addition, the shambolic handling of the July 14 ‘special vote’ is a serious indictment on the ability of the electoral commission to manage an electoral process whose outcome is not going to be contested.
"A reasonably free, conclusive vote is now in doubt with an increased possibility of another disputed poll. Christian Aid is therefore appealing for your thoughts and prayers for a peaceful, credible and fair election in Zimbabwe."
For more information see: www.zcc.co.zw/
Source: ZCC/Christian Aid
* 29 July 2013 12 noon - London Protest at Zimbabwe election rigging
12noon: meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London WC2R 0JR.
2pm: visit South African High Commission to present petition calling for new elections in Zimbabwe. Protest will end at 6pm.