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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Aid agencies condemn clampdown on Zimbabwe church groups
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¬†Aid agencies have protested over a clampdown by Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party on Zimbabwean church groups carrying out human rights work. The arrest of eight church leaders and the closure of an office of a church-based human rights organisation in Harare are the latest examples of the pressure ZANU PF is putting on human rights groups. Pax Christi International, Christian Aid, and other European agencies have spoken out on behalf of these church groups following a spate violence and intimidation. Zanu PF militia have stormed meetings and threatened violence against participants. The leaders from the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) were arrested at a church gathering in Kadoma. ZCA is a network of more than 300 Christians and Christian leaders who have joined together to support the church in addressing the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe. Following interrogation, the eight men were accused of preaching incitement to violence ≠ a charge ridiculed by ZCA who were watching a video of Martin Luther King at the time. At trial the charges facing five of the leaders were dropped but the remaining three were charged with 'incitement' for their assertion that Operation Murambatsvina has brought misery to the communities affected. The trial will continue on the 23 April. "This harassment is unacceptable," said Christian Aid's Africa policy manager, Babatunde Olugboji. 'State services have all but collapsed in Zimbabwe and the poor have limited access to healthcare, education, clean water, food and other essentials. Aid agencies are playing a major role in keeping people off the bread line," said Mr Olugboji. "The physical assaults, the intimidation and arrests of our church partner organisations are outrageous ≠ it puts people's lives at risk." Tearfund's Karyn Beattie said: "Churches and NGOs must be allowed to continue the work they are doing to help the poor. They are filling the vacuum left by the actions of a dysfunctional government, and cannot simply stand by and watch while people are robbed of their fundamental human rights.' Secular organisations and opposition groups have been persecuted for years for speaking out. As these groups have been increasingly silenced, church agencies have been forced to stand up for basic human rights ≠ such as the right to freedom of assembly and expression. In retaliation, the Zimbabwean government has clamped down on essential work of church agencies through draconian laws and bans on public rallies and demonstrations. Agencies signed to the statement: Christian Aid ≠ Tearfund ≠ Pax Christi International ≠ Zimbabwe Watch Netherlands ≠ Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa ≠ Ecumenical Support Services Munich
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