Zimbabwe: churches reject 'national day of prayer'

 Churches in Bulawayo turned down an offer from the government to hold a 'day of national prayer' at the weekend, the Missionary News Service reported yesterday. The minister for Youth Gender and Employment Creation, Eliot Manyika, asked Bulawayo churches to hold a day of prayer, similar to the one held in the national stadium in Harare early last month. Churches leaders rejected the plan as they feared it would by hijacked once again by the ZANU-PF party. One church spokesperson said: "We were approached by officials from the ministry of Gender to organise a day of prayer. The ministry said it would fund the programme, but it appears that most of the churches were against the idea so we turned down the offer." The Standard newspaper in Zimbabwe said Salvation Army parishioners from Bulawayo also refused the request, on moral grounds. One said: "The current wave of violence being sponsored by the government rekindles memories of genocide that took place during the dissident era in 1985, and we cannot be seen to be associating with such a violent party". At the stadium last month the prayer event degenerated into a political rally. Bishop Nolbert Kunonga from the Anglican diocese of Harare caused considerable embarrassment when he praised Robert Mugabe's regime, and described the president as 'one of the most Christian men he knew'.

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