Zimbabwe: women stage prayer rally for peace

 Hundreds of women from different denominations gathered on Saturday at a stadium in Harare, to pray for peace, ahead of the country's tense presidential run-off amid mounting political violence, South Africa's Mail & Guardian reported yesterday. "As we pray today there are some fellow Zimbabweans who are hiding in mountains afraid to come down, fearing that they may be surrounded and attacked," Tawona Mtshiya, vice-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, told the crowd. "In our situation in Zimbabwe today, a solution can only come if we pray to God." The prayer service was organised by a group called the Zimbabwe Women's National Prayer Task Force, which is seen as politically neutral. Zimbabweans go to the polls on 27 June for a second-round presidential election between President Robert Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. In recent weeks there have been several killings and hundreds of opposition supporters have been attacked and beaten by government forces. There is huge unemployment, hyper-inflation and massive food shortages. Vicky Mpofu, coordinator of the prayer task force, called on women to hold regular prayer and fasting in their respective churches for an end to the violence. "Women have a chance to speak out against violence because naturally we are peacemakers and also among us women are secretaries for Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni," Mpofu said. "Let us use every opportunity to talk and pray about peace in our beautiful nation. We don't want any more bloodshed, even the blood of animals. We pray that the spirit of violence is destroyed."

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