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Worshippers barred from churches on Christmas Day

Sunday 27th December 2009

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have condemned the recent resurgence of police intimidation of Anglicans in Zimbabwe.

Churchgoers, including clergy and local bishops, have been barred from entering their churches and threatened with arrest and violence.

'We condemn unequivocally any move to deny people their basic right to worship. To prevent people from worshipping in their churches on Christmas Day - unable to receive the church's message of hope - is a further blow to civil liberties in Zimbabwe. Such unprovoked intimidation of worshippers by the police is completely unacceptable and indicative of the continued and persistent oppression by state instruments of those perceived to be in opposition.

We stand in support of the dioceses of Harare and Manicaland under The Church of the Province of Central Africa in this regard. For many people in Zimbabwe, ground down by unceasing unemployment and lack of basic services, the church is their only lifeline.'

Following the financial appeal for Zimbabwe headed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, with USPG, earlier this year, the Anglican dioceses have been involved in extensive relief and development programmes, working successfully with local government to serve all in their communities, regardless of religion or political affiliation. Anglicans are playing a key role at all levels of society, working with government and community organisations to rebuild Zimbabwe. However following the excommunication of two Anglican bishops closely aligned to the ruling party, local churches have been subjected to targeted disruption of services, weddings and some community outreach work, in blatant contravention of court rulings in their favour.

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