Zimbabwe: churches clash with police

 There were several clashes between church and police in Zimbabwe today. In Bulawayo, Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, was cautioned by two plain clothed police officers over a service he held for victims of torture. They warned him that he should make sure all service were purely of a religious nature and not touch on politics. He said he told them it was impossible to separate issues of hunger and violence from religion. "If people are suffering... the church cannot excuse itself," he told AFP. In the capital Harare, 23 clergymen were arrested today after they went to a police station carrying wooden crosses and attempting to hand over a petition asking for an apology for the arrest of one of their colleagues at a church recently. The clergymen said they wanted to ask police chief Augustine Chihuri "to ensure that the police force in the country performs its duties with respect for the church and every citizen of Zimbabwe". They said it was their duty to overcome "unjust laws that encourage the selective and vindictive exercise of authority". Witnesses saw the group being pushed into the back of an open truck and driven away by police. Derek Chiteve of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe said on the BBC's Focus on Africa that only one of the protesters was released - because he was not wearing a clerical collar. The group are now being held at a police station in Harare.

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