Are Anglican archbishops the conscience of our generation? The Archbishop of Canterbury followed on from Desmond Tutu’s savaging of the ANC over the Dalai Lama debacle with a no-holds-barred sermon in Harare on Sunday, telling Zimbabweans exactly what was wrong with their country. He followed this up by meeting the target of his ire on Monday afternoon. Brave man. By SIMON ALLISON.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, didn’t mention Robert Mugabe by name in what staffers described as “the sermon of his life”. But in the Sunday message delivered to a packed sports stadium in Harare on Sunday, the object of the Archbishop’s wrath was unmistakable. “How strange it is that we so often behave – yes, even we who are Christians – as though we cannot survive unless we silence all voices of challenge or criticism,” he said from the pulpit. He told Zimbabweans that they deserved better than to live in fear and under the threat of violence, and comparing the country’s lawlessness with the “greed of colonialists and imperialists”.
He also had harsh words for the renegade faction of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe which has found official support. “You know how those who by their greed and violence have refused the grace of God try to silence your worship and frustrate your witness in the churches and schools and hospitals of this country,” he said.
Williams’ thinly-veiled attacks on Mugabe must have made his meeting with Zimbabwe’s president on Monday interesting. “Today we were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by the bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church has been subject,” reported Williams in a joint statement with other archbishops. “We have asked, in the clearest possible terms, that the President use his powers as Head of State to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behavior.” The archbishop will meet Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday. DM
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