President Robert Mugabe lead a prayer service at Glamis Stadium, in Harare on Sunday, where he called on the churches to work with him to solve the country's worsening crisis. and threatened "vicious action" against churches critical of his government. Inflation is at more than 1,100 percent, while unemployment is at about 80 percent. More than three-quarters of the country's 13 million people live in abject poverty, spawned by rapid economic decline. Many thousands are homeless and unemployed after Mugabe's 'Drive Out Trash' programme last year which demolished their homes and businesses. The prayer service - condemned by many church leaders, were organized by the so-called Ecumenical Peace Initiative (EPI), a newly formed alliance of churches seen as broadly pro-government. Controversial Anglican Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga and certain Catholic bishops and various evangelical groups belong to EPI. There is also the longer-established Christian Alliance, an anti-government church group, which has staged protests in Zimbabwe and in neighbouring countries. During his speech in the stadium Mugabe, who was brought up and educated as a Catholic threatened any churches critical of his regime with "vicious action." He prayed for the success of his land redistribution programme and the forgiveness of sins committed during his tenure in office, but did not specify the transgressions. Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo told the UN news service by telephone that church leaders who had aligned themselves with the government were compromised. "The church should be a safe haven for the tortured and abandoned. This government continues to abuse people's rights and church leaders should be warned that their solidarity with those who have caused so much suffering leaves the victims feeling betrayed," he said.
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