|United Methodists join in prayers for Zimbabwe|
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
June 24, 2008
Both the United Nations and ecumenical Christian groups are calling
upon the government of Zimbabwe to end the violence there and postpone
the June 27 presidential runoff election.
And, as United Methodists and other Christians participated in a
worldwide day of prayer for Zimbabwe on June 22, the leader of the
opposition party candidate for president withdrew from that election.
Morgan Tsvangirai—considered by many to be the unofficial winner over
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in the March 29 presidential
election—said he was concerned that the lives of voters would be at risk
if he participated "in this violent, illegitimate sham of an election
process," the New York Times reported. Tsvangirai then took refuge at the Dutch Embassy in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
Morgan Tsvangirai waves to supporters as he arrives at the March 2006 Movement
for Democratic Change Congress in
Harare, Zimbabwe. A UMNS photo
courtesy of Wikipedia.
The prayers for Zimbabwe will continue, according to Bishop Felton E.
May, currently serving as interim top executive of the United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries.
"On Sunday, June 22, we celebrated in prayer our hope for peace and
justice in Zimbabwe, and in every country in the world where there is
discord, oppression, and war," he said. "We continue that prayer today.
We pray that peace and justice will become an everyday reality for the
people of Zimbabwe."
On June 23, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement expressing
regret "that the campaign of violence and the restrictions on the
political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair
election to take place on 27 June."
Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary-general, had separately condemned the
election-related violence and called for authorities in Zimbabwe to
postpone the election, saying it "would lack all legitimacy."
A joint letter from the World Council of Churches and World Student
Christian Federation, issued June 24 in Geneva, welcomed the statements
by Ban, the U.N. Security Council and the Southern Africa Development
Community. The United Methodist Church is a part of both the WCC and
Addressed to the United Nations, Southern Africa Development Community
and African Union, the letter requested "direct urgent attention to the
humanitarian needs of the people of Zimbabwe, their freedom to exercise
religion, the destabilization of the political situation and the need to
end human rights abuses."
The letter also asked for a reaffirmation of democratic elections. "The
international community must insist on a political solution to the
question of leadership in Zimbabwe," it said. "This may involve a
postponement of the election, giving the time for the establishment of
control mechanisms based on internationally accepted standards that
would guarantee the unhindered expression of will of the people of
Zimbabwe through truly free and fair elections."
The Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya who leads the World
Council of Churches, had sent a letter to the U.N. secretary-general on
June 18, offering "an extensive dossier" of information regarding
violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, prepared by the Dutch Reformed
Church in South Africa, and calling upon the international community to
protect the Zimbabwean people.
The World Council of Churches also asked Christians worldwide to
observe a day of prayer for Zimbabwe on June 22. The day of prayer was
initiated by Christians in Zimbabwe.
May had joined Kobia in calling on Christians to join their Zimbabwean sisters and brothers in prayers for peace and justice.
"Prayer is a powerful offering that Christians can make in
politically troubled times and places," May stated. "I urge United
Methodists in our global mission connection to pray diligently with
Zimbabwean brothers and sisters for a peaceful electoral process that
will lead to justice and prosperity for their country."
'Lift up Zimbabwe in prayer'
Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the United Methodist Florida Annual
(regional) Conference also endorsed the call for prayer, and sent out an
"e-mail blast" that encouraged "every church in the Florida Conference
to lift up Zimbabwe in prayer during their worship services."
"We know of the problems in Zimbabwe and also the keen care and concern
of The United Methodist Church there," said Whitaker. "There are many
United Methodists in Zimbabwe, and it is also the home of our Africa
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends the African Union
Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Jan. 31. A UMNS photo
by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock (USAF).
In Germany, United Methodist Bishop Rosemarie Wenner sent a pastoral
letter and prayer request for the people of Zimbabwe to all local
churches and annual conferences delegates within her episcopal area.
The WCC/WSCF letter also focused on the need for humanitarian assistance
in Zimbabwe, especially since Mugabe barred international aid agencies
from the country.
"Reports from those in and outside Zimbabwe persuade us that
international intervention is now needed to distribute much-needed food
aid," the letter said. "The government’s decision to end food
distribution by international agencies has led only to political
isolation and increased suffering. Food and medicine are in particular
demand, with the imminent threat of starvation in some areas."
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is providing some
humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe, assisting a partner organization
there that is distributing food and medicine to communities and clinics
serving the most vulnerable. UMCOR is helping pay to transport the goods
to areas most affected by food shortages and politically-related
Donations to UMCOR Advance No. 199456, Zimbabwe Emergency, can be
dropped into church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O.
Box 9068, New York, N.Y. 10087-9068. Write the Advance number and name
on the memo line of the check. Credit card donations are accepted online
at www.givetomission.org or by phone at (800) 554-8583.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Security council urges Zimbabwe to halt violence
Speakers on human rights condemn Harare’s crackdown
UMCOR assists local partners for Zimbabwe aid
World Council of Churches
June 24 WCC/WSCF letter
Zimbabwe Day of Prayer
BBC: Zimbabwe election crisis