Friday, June 27, 2008

Zimbabwe: 'We are being persecuted.'

Date: Friday 27 June 2008
Subj: Zimbabwe: "We are being persecuted."
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

"Religious freedom" that is conditional on being a member of the State religion is clearly not religious freedom. "Religious freedom" that does not permit conversion is not religious freedom. Likewise, "religious freedom" that is conditional on political allegiance is not religious freedom.

What began in 2001 as government interference in Anglican affairs has developed into religious liberty abuse so severe and violent that "dissident" Anglicans -- that is most Anglicans -- in the capital, Harare, now risk death to meet together. And there is no reason to believe that Mugabe's religious repression and persecution will end with the Anglicans of Harare. If Mugabe manages to steal the election and take control of the Anglican churches of Harare he will doubtless move to control all churches of all denominations nationwide.

As policy analyst Dr J Peter Pham comments, "Mugabe's dealings in recent years with Zimbabwean Anglicans highlight the totalitarian trajectory of his rule." (Link 1)

There is a huge amount of anxiety over what will eventuate after 27 June 08 -- the day slated for the run-off presidential election. With religious liberty already being so seriously violated, what does the future hold? If Mugabe retains power, will everyone who does not worship according to his dictates be deprived of food, incarcerated or murdered? Will Christians who want to worship the Lord be forced to meet in secret "underground" house churches, while the dictator points to State-run cathedrals and says, "You are free to worship there!"


In Harare, thousands of Anglicans have been locked out of dozens of church properties. Why? Because the Anglican Church had the audacity (read: integrity and courage) to stand up to Mugabe's corrupt puppet-bishop, Rev Dr Nolbert Kunonga.


In 2001, Zimbabwean secret police secured the election of Nolbert Kunonga to the post of Anglican Bishop of Harare. Kunonga had been in the USA, teaching Liberation Theology in the Rev Sun Myung Moon's Unification Seminary in Barrytown, New York.

Dr Pham describes Kunonga's "election" as a "racially-charged campaign targeting the frontrunner for the episcopate, the white vicar-general of the diocese, Canon Tim Neill, who had earned the ire of the regime for denouncing its human rights abuses. (A letter from one government agency once warned the Oxford-trained cleric that he was 'applying for an early passport to hell.') Once enthroned at Harare's Cathedral of St. Mary and All Saints, Kunonga proceeded to turn his diocese into the 'religious' arm of ZANU-PF . . ." (Link 1)

Pham goes on to quote an April 2008 Christianity Today article by Anglican journalist and commentator Canon George Conger, which explains that after his election "Kunonga drove off the diocese's white Zimbabwean clergy and purged its ranks of those deemed disloyal to the regime, causing half of the African clergy to flee abroad. To fill empty pulpits, he began ordaining clergy without theological training – including some members of the secret police, Zimbabwe's vice president Joseph Msika, and two government cabinet ministers". (Full CT article: link 2)

Canon Conger was recently interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National "Religion Report". He told host Stephen Crittenden: "In 2003, a case was brought in Ecclesiastical Court against Dr Kunonga, charging him with a range of crimes from heresy to fraud, to inciting members of the secret police to murder ten of his clergy who were not toeing the line. A church trial was held in 2005 but the trial collapsed because the witnesses were afraid to return to Zimbabwe for fear of their lives." (Link 3)

But by October 2007, as courageous organised opposition was rising, Kunonga knew his power was waning. So, in a politically motivated stunt he moved to separate the diocese of Harare from the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa -- a grouping of dioceses in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe -- on the false claim that it was full of homosexuals. Canon Conger explains in Christianity Today: "In an interview with Voice of America on February 25, [Zimbabwean Bishop, Sebastian] Bakare said all of Zimbabwe's Anglican congregations had abandoned Kunonga, as had most of the clergy. There was 'no doubt' the schism was 'politically motivated', he said, as 'Kunonga wanted to deliver the Anglican diocese to ZANU-PF [Mugabe's political party]'."

Subsequently in November 2007 the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa removed Kunonga from his post as bishop of Harare on the grounds of schism. European-educated Rev Dr Sebastian Bakare (66), the former bishop of Manicaland (the region bordering Mozambique) was brought out of retirement to stand in for Kunonga. Kunonga challenged the Church's decision in Harare's High Court.

In January 2008 Harare's High Court upheld the Anglican Church's right to govern its own affairs, but ruled that Harare's Cathedral be shared between Kunonga and Bishop Bakare. On 10 February, Kunonga, in defiance of the court order, barricaded himself inside the Cathedral along with some 40 members of the ZANU-PF youth militia. In early May the Supreme Court dismissed Kunonga's appeal. Furthermore, Kunonga has now been formerly excommunicated by the dean of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.


State-orchestrated violence against Harare's Anglicans has since exploded. Mugabe's police have seized all the Anglican property in Harare and marked "dissident" Anglicans as traitors.

A New York Times report dated 16 May describes the violence: "The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.

"A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, 'We will keep worshipping no matter the trials!' Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers' Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.

"Beneath their defiance, though, lay raw fear as the country's ruling party stepped up its campaign of intimidation ahead of a presidential runoff. In a conflict that has penetrated ever deeper into Zimbabwe's social fabric, the party has focused on a growing roster of groups that elude its direct control -- a list that includes the Anglican diocese of Harare . . .

"At St Paul's Church in the Highfield suburb of Harare, the congregation refused to budge and kept singing 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' when a dozen policemen entered the church on May 4. But the commander radioed for backup, and soon more than 50 riot police officers arrived, the church's wardens said.

"Hundreds of parishioners were then drummed out of the church to the deafening beat of baton sticks banging on pews. People began taking out their cellphones to photograph the policemen who had forced them out.

"The officers then charged into the scattering crowd, batons swinging. 'Even myself, they hit my hand,' said a stunned seamstress. 'They said, "Go back to your homes. You are not supposed to be here".' "

Bishop Bakare tells the New York Times: "As a theologian who has read a lot about the persecution of the early Christians, I'm really feeling connected to that history. We are being persecuted." (Link 4)

Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop M Thomas Shaw recently travelled to Zimbabwe on a "secret mission" to investigate and offer support to Zimbabwe's Anglicans. In an article published on 6 June, Bishop Shaw tells Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe that Anglican worshippers in Zimbabwe are routinely being arrested and beaten, churches are being padlocked by police, diocesan bank accounts have been frozen, and clergy vehicles are being seized.

Paulson reports: "Shaw said Zimbabweans told him that beatings, jailings, and intimidation by police using dogs and batons have become routine elements of Anglican life in Harare, the country's capital. He said one priest told him he has to sleep in a different home each night because of threats to his life; another priest was arrested the day after having lunch with Shaw, apparently for refusing to surrender a parish car. Shaw said he was told about a 9-year-old boy beaten in church, among many other stories of persecution and physical assault by government officials.

"'They [the government] literally have taken over all the [Anglican] property -- people have access to the property during the week, but on the weekends, when church is supposed to take place, if they go into the church to pray or to hold services, there are riot police that are there immediately,' he said. 'They've confiscated rectories. . . . They've tried to confiscate all of the parish vehicles, and it's practically impossible to buy a car or rent a car in Zimbabwe now, because of all the shortages, and so they take a car and they literally paralyse the priest from doing the pastoral ministry and taking care of people.'

"Speaking of a May 18 incident, Shaw said, 'There were between 80 or 90 riot police that came into this church to break up the congregation, and these people refused to leave, and even though it was a very threatening atmosphere, they just stayed there and prayed and sang hymns together for over two hours while the police were threatening them and pounding on pews and there were police dogs.'

"'Sunday I went to this really poor township, and over 400 people were worshipping in this yard of this person's house, spilling out into the road,' he said. 'It was an unbelievable experience. The enthusiasm, the joy that these people have is pretty profound.'" (Link 5)

Today the Anglican churches in Harare are locked to all but those who support Mugabe and his puppet-bishop, Kungona. The situation for "dissident" Anglicans is further complicated by the fact that in mid May, police invoked security laws and broadened the ban of public rallies to included public prayer meetings. Pastor Useni Sibanda, a spokesperson for the group called Churches in Bulawayo, told Ecumenical News International on 20 May, "We were told last week that churches are no longer allowed to hold prayer meetings in the open except on church premises." (Link 6) This is a difficult thing to do when you are locked out of your church.

On 20 June the Anglican Journal reported: "In recent weeks, police have raided offices of human rights and church groups, including the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe, and Ecumenical Support Services, and arrested a number of their workers. After the attorney general refused to prosecute those arrested, they were cleared of charges and released." (Link 7)


In early June, the Bishops of the Province of Central Africa issued a "Pastoral Message" in which they express their deep concern and dismay at the marked escalation in violence and called upon the perpetrators of violence to respect the law.

"As bishops we are also pained to hear that members of the Anglican Diocese of Harare are being denied to pray in their church buildings. We are concerned that their right to worship enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe as well as the Article 18 of the UN Charter on Human Rights is being violated. This mirrors the persecution of Christians of the Early Church and in this context we remind the perpetrators that now as then God still triumphs over evil.

"As bishops, we pray that the right of the people of Zimbabwe as spelled out in the constitution be upheld, that the judicial system as a reservoir of integrity, without respect of persons in its judgment and ruling, be guided by the spirit of justice and equity. That the law enforcement agents carry out their professional duties to defend shared values. The political parties respect the will of the people regardless of whether the results of the elections are in their favour or not.

"We offer this prayer for sanity and resolve to bring all people in Zimbabwe to the realisation that we are all God's children, created in His image to love one another.

"As bishops we commend all God's children in Zimbabwe to His mercy that they may live in love, justice and peace.

"In closing we offer this prayer to all:

"Lord, you asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment then withdrew them for the work was hard.
You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them for I did not want to see.
You asked for my life that you might work through me.
I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you
Only when it is convenient for me to do so,
Only in those places where it is safe to do so,
And only with those who make it easy to do so.
Father, forgive me, renew me
Send me out as a usable instrument
That I might take seriously the meaning of your cross." (Link 8)

This Pastoral Message and prayer was issued by the Bishops of the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa. It was signed by 15 bishops, all of whom have a clearer image and more profound understanding of the cross of Jesus Christ now than they ever did previously. May the hopes of the Zimbabwean Church remain anchored in the knowledge that that cross is now empty, for the cross is not only a symbol of transitory suffering on the path to eternal glory, but of the redemption of suffering itself.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Zimbabwe's Runoff Rip-off
J. Peter Pham, Ph.D. 24 June 2008

2) Thug Bishop
By George Conger, posted 3 April 2008

3) Zimbabwean Anglican excommunication
4 June 2008, Radio interview with Canon George Conger

4) Zimbabwe's Rulers Unleash Police on Anglicans
New York Times, 16 May 2008

5) Bishop finds flock tormented in Zimbabwe
Boston Globe, 6 June 2008

6) Zimbabwe police ban open-air prayer meetings
22 May 2008.

7) Churches call for prayers as election-related violence escalates in Zimbabwe
Ecumenical News International, 20 June 2008

8) Anglican Communion News Service. 3 June 2008
Pastoral Message issued by the Bishops of the Church of the Province of Central Africa
On the Crisis in Zimbabwe: "I Have Heard The Cry of My People"

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Date: Thursday 19 June 2008
Subj: Papua (Indonesia): Muslim-Christian tensions on a knife edge.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

International Crisis Group (ICG) has just released an informative and significant report on the escalating ethnic and religious tensions in Papua (eastern Indonesia).

Indonesia: Communal Tensions in Papua
ICG Asia Report No. 154, 16 June 2008

As the report notes: "Indonesian Papua has seen periodic clashes between pro-independence supporters and government forces, but conflict between Muslim and Christian communities could also erupt unless rising tensions are effectively managed."

According to ICG, the key factors behind escalating sectarian tensions are "continuing Muslim migration from elsewhere in Indonesia; the emergence of new, exclusivist groups in both religious communities that have hardened the perception of the other as enemy; the lasting impact of the Maluku conflict; and the impact of developments outside Papua."

WEA RLC News & Analysis has regularly raised the issue of Muslim migration and demographics in Papua, most recently in a 20 December 2007 posting entitled: "Papua (Indonesia): Genocide by Demographics". (Link 1)

The ICG report gives detailed accounts of how changing ethnic and religious demographics in various towns have produced localised but threatening culture clashes. Violence has been only barely contained and tensions simmer just under the surface.

Concerning the "new, exclusivist groups in both religious communities", IGC says that the arrival in Papua over the last ten years of new "militant strands of both religions" is contributing to tensions. "On the Muslim side", they note, "Hizb ut-Tahrir and salafi Muslims are giving a harder edge to an Islam that until recently was . . . reasonably moderate." Then, "On the Christian side, neo-pentecostals and charismatics are promoting their own brand of exclusivist truth and see the expansion of Muslim daawa (religious outreach, dakwah in Indonesian spelling) as their greatest challenge." (Page 1)

ICG is no doubt attempting to be fair, non-judgmental and politically correct by presenting these "exclusivist" and "militant" groups as moral equivalents. But this is unfair and unreasonable.

There is however a good deal of interesting information in the ICG report. While Salfists are mainly winning over the Javanese, the Hizb ut Tahrir (which preaches Islamic-Marxist revolution) and the Pentecostal God-wants-you-to-have-prosperity-and-power sects are winning over many poor, marginalised, disempowered indigenous Papuans, thus deepening the fractures within Papuan society which is largely mainline Protestant.

The ICG report also details the degree to which the conflict in Maluku spread to Papua.


One very disturbing element of the ICG report is the regular reference to the "new history" that has recently been "rediscovered by Muslim commentators". As ICG reports, "the subtext to the new popular history is that foreign missionaries were responsible for Christianisation of a Muslim land; that Christian colonialism proceeded to obliterate all traces of Islam; and that not just Papua Muslims but Indonesian Muslims more generally must redouble efforts to regain lost ground and exert the control that is rightfully theirs." (page 21)

ICG does not challenge the Muslim commentators' "new popular history" or denounce it as revisionism. Rather ICG accepts it, describing Muslim acceptance of it as a "new awareness" (p4) or a "new understanding" (p11) of history. Clearly, if Muslim commentators say it, it must be true!

The same benefit-of-the-doubt courtesy is not, however, extended to Christians. For example: "Toward the end of the year, rumours began circulating in the Christian community that Laskar Jihad, the salafi militia that wreaked havoc in Maluku from 2000 to 2002, was conducting military training in a trans-migrant area known as Satuan Pemukiman (SP) 7 in Masmi, outside Manokwari, with the aim of fighting Christians who had opposed the mosque. The fears were calmed after it turned out that the young men involved, almost all of them migrants, were not Laskar Jihad at all but members of a non-political, non-religious martial arts organisation." (Page 5) This reporting would be fine except that the footnote reference cites as the source: "Crisis Group telephone interview, Muslim activist, Manokwari, May 2008."

ICG seems to have an anti-Christian bias which causes it to undermine and minimise Christian concerns and thereby de-legitimise Christian requests. It seems to accept as inevitable that Papua will become Muslim and regard as unreasonable that Christians would want to prevent that.

Despite these problems, the ICG report is both informative and important. Religious liberty advocates will understand just how incredibly serious the situations described are.

ICG forecasts that if Muslim v Christian clashes do erupt, they will remain localised. I do not agree with that assessment. The jihadist groups, the pro-Indonesia militias and in particular the Indonesian military (TNI) are looking for an excuse to unleash violent repression and ethnic-religious cleansing. Any violent local clash therefore has incendiary potential to convert simmering tension into burning terror across the region.


The most disappointing (and shameful) thing about the ICG report is that while ICG offers several recommendations for managing the situation, implementation of the Special Autonomy Law is not one of them! De-militarisation and the opening up of the region to visitors, journalists and human rights monitors are not amongst ICG's recommendations either.

ICG's recommendations include things such as ". . .ensure that Papua develops its own indigenous [Muslim] scholars and teachers able to interpret universal Islamic values in ways that are in harmony rather than conflict with customary traditions".

But it is naive to think there is such a thing as "universal Islamic values", and even more naive to think that Javanese Salafis would accept having indigenous Papuans "interpret" or customise orthodox, Qur'anic Islamic values so that they no longer conflict with customary (Melanesian, tribal, animist, Christian) traditions.

What Papua needs is openness and internationally-monitored full implementation of the Special Autonomy Law. And it needs it very soon, before it is simply too late and the momentum behind the genocide of Papua's Melanesian Christians is irreversible.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Date: Wednesday 11 June 2008
Subj: Lebanon Falls.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

Iran-sponsored, Shi'ite dominated Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon. What Hezballah wants -- indeed demands -- is freedom to ignore UN resolutions and re-build, re-organise and re-arm for war with absolute impunity.

In a 6 May cabinet meeting that lasted until 4am the next morning, the government (which is dominated by the Sunni-led March 14 forces) declared that Hezballah's extensive, completely independent communications network must be integrated with the government's. Of particular concern to the Telecommunications Minister, Marawn Hamadeh, was an "illegal and unconstitutional" communications and surveillance system that had been installed on Runway 17 of Beirut airport by Wafiq Shuqayr at Hezballah's request. The cabinet therefore also voted to remove Shaqayr -- a Shi'ite with known ties to Hezballah -- from his position as chief of airport security.

Hezballah's response was immediate, swift and devastating. Hezballah blockaded all the roads to the airport, seized Sunni West Beruit and shut down all the Sunni-owned pro-government media. After two days of fighting in Beirut, Hebzallah moved its fight to Druze areas of Mount Lebanon. Eventually, with the state at the brink of civil war, and with their homes under siege, both Hariri (Sunni leader) and Jumblatt (Druze leader) were forced to negotiate on Hezballah's terms. It was a most impressive blitzkrieg.

The Lebanese Army under the direction of General Suleiman (who was appointed to the post with Syrian approval in 1998 when Syria controlled Lebanon) did not resist Hezballah. Yet this is the same army that doggedly fought and profoundly defeated al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam (Sunni) in north Lebanon over three months in the summer of 2007.

Once Hezballah had proved its power, it handed its gains to the Lebanese Army. The government revoked its 6 May cabinet decisions and transferred the contentious issues -- Hezballah's communications network and Wafiq Shuqayr's position as chief of airport security -- over to the Army commander General Suleiman who declared both issues null.

Then on 21 May in Qatar (which is according to analyst Barry Rubin "an integral part of the Iran-Syria-Hezballah axis") the Lebanese government capitulated to Hezballah's conditions and surrendered its sovereignty. Lebanon has fallen. Hezballah now has veto power over all Lebanese government decisions; their candidate -- General Michel Suleiman -- has been installed as president; they control one-third of the cabinet; and they have authority to gerrymander and create smaller electorates in order to ensure victory at the next legislative elections. On 22 May the UN endorsed the agreement. Lebanon is now, in the words of Barry Rubin, "part of the Iranian bloc" and Hezballah is free to advance its war agenda unhindered.

Lebanon's fall will probably go down as the most geo-strategically significant event of 2008. Yet there was barely a sound. Instead of crashing like a major tsunami-inducing earthquake, the fall of Lebanon was more akin to a small, weak, abandoned man being kicked into quicksand by a pack of bullies. And as darkness envelopes this poor sinking man, his supposed friends, from the comfort and safety of their faraway palaces, praise all parties for avoiding war and making peace.

From this point I will limit myself to commenting on the religious liberty implications. However, I will provide a list of what I regard as the best reporting and analysis on the Hezballah blitzkrieg and resultant political situation.


The fall of Lebanon is the continuation and confluence of two trends that are being monitored by WEA RLC: the Shi'ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence. It has horrendous implications not only for Lebanon but for religious liberty and security in the whole Middle East.

For background see WEA RLC analysis on these two trends:

Religious Liberty Trends 2006-2007
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 5 Feb 2007

Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008
(trend 2: "The New Cold War")
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 15 Feb 2008

While Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon, it is without a doubt preparing the ground for regime change. It is only a matter of time now before the weak, abandoned and subservient pro-Lebanon, pro-West, "moderate" and Sunni-led government is replaced with one that is pro-Syria, pro-Iran, pro-Hezballah and pro-jihad. In the mean time we will doubtless see many "moderate" Sunnis, Druze and even some Christians behaving as abandoned, subjugated peoples and falling into line behind Hezballah for survival purposes.

As Shi'ite power rises and advances across the region, and as US influence declines, US "allies" in the region -- that is the Sunnis (great respecters of power) -- are switching sides. The latter portion of the Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008 posting, under the subheading "A Word on the Middle East", notes several indicators to this effect. Now further to this, recent reports from Compass Direct () reveal a sudden ominous and dramatic rise in religious repression and hostility from the formerly progressive and West-friendly regime in Jordan. Having demonstrated its power so profoundly, Hezballah will not have to work too hard in Lebanon to get the Sunnis to line up behind its anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro-Sharia, pro-jihad "Islamic" agenda.

As noted in WEA RLC Religious Liberty Trends postings, both the Shi'ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence do not augur well for the religious liberty and security of Christians in the Middle East. As these two trends converge, each will cause the other to escalate. Over recent decades, US influence in the region (which extends most from America's economic power) has forced Arab states to constrain Islamic forces. As circumstances change and the constraints disappear and as the repressive and apocalyptic Iranian cleric-led regime assumes the role of regional hegemon, the future for Christians and all non-Muslims in the Middle East is extremely precarious.


Hezballah's Blitzkrieg:
"A deadly miscalculation in Lebanon",
By Sami Moubayed, 14 May 2008
Asia Times Online

Facts (and maps) concerning Hezballah's communications network:
"Hezbollah's Communication Network Confirms Its Terror Goals"
By Walid Phares, PhD 21 May 2008
World Defense Review

Best analysis:
1) "The Fall of Lebanon",
By Barry Rubin, 24 May 2008
The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
In this piece Barry Rubin compares the situation in Lebanon and the wider Middle East in May 2008 to that of Czechoslovakia and central/eastern Europe in October 1938 after "Britain and France effectively turned Czechoslovakia over to Nazi Germany".

2) "The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled"
By Walid Phares, PhD 2 June 2008
World Defense Review
In this piece Walid Phares dissects and analyses Nasrallah's victory speech.

-- Elizabeth Kendal