Zimbabwe: Catholic bishops demand immediate stop to violence

 The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference has issued the following statement on the current crisis; In our Pastoral Letter on 'Zimbabwe Elections 2008', published in December 2007, we offered some guidelines on a credible electoral process. We pointed out that the environment before, during and after the elections, has much to contribute in judging whether a particular election is free and fair. Our experience before the March 29, 2008 harmonised elections and on polling day was encouraging. It was the post-election period that discredited the whole process. What we are experiencing now is putting into question the credibility of the Presidential run-off elections scheduled for 27 June 2008. The reign of violence that has been unleashed on the country, especially in the rural areas and former commercial farming areas, is unacceptable. Base camps from which militias terrorise defenceless rural populations must be disbanded as a matter of urgency. People are being force-marched to political re-orientation meetings and are told that they voted 'wrongly' in the Presidential poll on 29 March 2008 and that on 27 June 2008, they will be given the last opportunity to 'correct their mistake', else the full-scale shooting war of the 1970s will resume. It is in this context that despicable atrocities are being committed by members of both contesting parties, ZANU PF and MDC. The words of Genesis 4:10 come to our mind, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil". Innocent blood is being spilt. The perpetrators are known. We appeal to the political parties to exercise restraint. It is sad to see Christians, including Catholics, among the perpetrators of such violence. Where are our Christian principles and values? The prevailing animosity will make post-election reconciliation, unity and healing more difficult to achieve. We call for a conducive environment that enables people to vote according to their consciences. Hatred, intimidation and violence cannot have the last word in our society. As we move closer to the Presidential run-off on 27 June 2008 we insist on the principles for a credible electoral process. Potentially disenfranchised people by way of displacements or deprivation of their IDs must be enabled to exercise their right to vote. We urge all State Security Organs to value and protect the life and human rights of every individual. We call for the de-politicisation of the armed and uniformed forces and traditional leaders. We call for an immediate cessation of violence and all provocative statements and actions. We appeal for the immediate deployment of SADC, AU and independent monitors and observers throughout the country, particularly the rural areas. We call for a balanced coverage of the two contesting parties and candidates on State Media, which is funded by public funds. We call upon ZEC to fulfil its Constitutional mandate as a truly independent and impartial authority for the run-off election. Finally, we renew the call to prayer for all our needs, which include a credible electoral process, food and provisions for our families, education for our children, medicines for the sick and respect for every human life and dignity. "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt.22:39). Electoral processes and outcomes are not an excuse for breaching God's commandments. The sun will still rise on 28 June 2008, well after the elections. May our present conduct help Zimbabwe rise too to assume its rightful place among the Nations of the World. "The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you" (2Cor.13:13). +Robert C Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare (ZCBC President) +Angel Floro, Bishop of Gokwe (ZCBC Vice President) +Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa, Bishop of Mutare (ZCBC Secretary/Treasurer) +Michael D Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo +Martin Munyanyi, Bishop of Gweru +Dieter B Scholz SJ, Bishop of Chinhoyi +Albert Serrano, Bishop of Hwange +Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare Very Rev Msgr Martin Schupp, Pontifical Administrator of Bulawayo Archdiocese

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