Southern African Bishops declare day of prayer and solidarity for Zimbabwe

 The Catholic Bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland (members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, SACBC) have asked the Catholic
community in their countries to contribute in practical ways to relieving the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe.

In the closing statement of the SACBC's Plenary Assembly, which took place in Pretoria, South Africa they said: Having heard from Bishops from Zimbabwe about the appalling humanitarian situation in their country, the Bishops took advantage to their Plenary meeting to issue a call to the SADC Special Summit, also meeting in Pretoria, to stop all support for Mugabe. The Bishops warned that the situation in Zimbabwe was becoming so dire that inaction on the part of SADC would be tantamount to support for a 'Passive Genocide' in Zimbabwe. The SADC Special Summit concluded with a new agreement (following that of Harare
on September 15) for the formation of a government of national unity presided by opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. The opposition, however, has expressed its reservations in regards to the matter. The Bishops have also called on Mugabe to resign so that credible presidential elections can be held. The Catholics of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland are to provide an immediate contribution for Zimbabwe. SACBC President Archbishop Buti Thlagale of Johannesburg has asked all parishes and communities in the Conference territory to join their bishops in making a financial contribution so that food and medicine could be bought.

This practical contribution would be distributed through the Caritas network in Zimbabwe.

"Zimbabwe has moved from a crisis to a disaster to passive genocide," said the Archbishop. "We cannot stand by without offering practical and immediate help. This is our Christian duty." On February 15, the three countries will celebrate "Solidarity Sunday" in prayer and support for Zimbabwe.

The Catholic Church in southern Africa has been intensely criticizing the Mugabe regime, considering it as illegitimate, in addition to the mediation talks that have up til now been led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, as they have been ineffective and have in fact favoured the regime and prolonged the suffering of the population. Today, January 28, the World Health Organization has issued an updated statement on the situation of the cholera epidemic that since last August has swept over Zimbabwe and has been the worst recorded in Africa in the last 14 years: 3,000 deaths and 57,000 cases of infection.

Source: Fides

PRETORIA - 30 January 2009 - 400 words

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