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Archbishop of Canterbury in Zimbabwe

On his tour of three central African countries, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has moved on from Malawi, where the country was celebrating its 150th anniversary of the Anglican Church, to Zimbabwe.

The main purpose of Dr Williams’ visit to Zimbabwe is to “show solidarity” with his fellow Anglicans in the country, who are estimated to number around 350,000. During his time in Zimbabwe, Dr Williams also plans to visit a number of church projects which provide care for orphans and those living with HIV/AIDS.

His pastoral visit comes at a difficult time for the Anglican church in Zimbabwe, which has split into two factions. Bishop Chad Gandiya is recognised by many worshippers as the rightful Bishop of the Anglican Communion in Zimbabwe. However, because he is believed to be a supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change, political divisions have arisen. An excommunicated bishop with the support of the Zanu-PF party, Nolbert Kunonga, is currently heading up the church in Harare. His supporters are accused of violence towards those Anglicans who follow Bishop Gandiya.

In recent months, priests and Anglican employees have been the target of increasingly violent attacks and some followers of Bishop Gandiya have also faced evictions from their churches or places of work, such as schools and orphanages. In a letter sent to President Mugabe in January, Dr Williams wrote of his concern over the “unmerited, unjust and unlawful persecution of members of the Anglican church in Zimbabwe”. Dr Williams will be meeting with the President later today to raise his concerns in person.

Yesterday, Dr Williams took a Eucharist service in the City Sports Centre of Harare, where he was greeted by an estimated 15,000 Anglican worshippers. The stadium is normally the home of sports fans, but the people filling the terraces yesterday were there to see the head of their Church. Dr Williams was also accompanied by bishops from neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, as well as by Archbishop Albert Chama of the Church’s Central African province.

In his sermon, Dr Williams spoke out against the “mindless and Godless assaults” taking place in Zimbabwe, but also told the worshippers they should shun violence. Addressing the issue of Zimbabwe’s past with Britain, Dr Williams conceded that British colonialism in the region had been motivated by greed. However, he also expressed regret that the illegitimate rule by Britain had been replaced by “another kind of lawlessness”.

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