Courage and violence

Email from Avondale Parish, Zimbabwe

Two weeks ago riot police blocked worshippers from using their church at St Stephen's, Zengeza. Some, including elderly women, were 'thrashed', one suffering a broken arm. Some were arrested and held in police cells for two nights.

But Henry Musikavanhu was determined: "If they arrest me, I'll be back next Sunday. The only way they'll stop me is to shoot me." He was back at church a week later and confronted the riot police again. Journalists had been alerted so they could film police obstructing church services: they remained outside while the service proceeded. What an example of courage in the face of violent opposition.

As reported previously, last week the Kunonga faction have occupied the church hall and facilities at Avondale church for a clergy "retreat". On Thursday they blocked the church office and used it for sleeping accommodation.

On the evening of Saturday 13 December several thugs raided the quarters of the church staff and beat up Josiah C, Timothy Z and Richard N while demanding the keys to the church. In this they were unsuccessful, and three of the attackers were caught and have been arrested. One of the church wardens, Trish M, spent until 2:00 am at Avondale Police station to deal with the incident. Fortunately the injuries sustained are not severe, but the staff are understandably frightened. There is a report that others attacked some of the workers' children yesterday (Sunday 14 December).

Yesterday Rev Hugh W, Gordon G, Fred J and Douglas M spent several hours at Avondale Police station trying to negotiate that the Kunonga people illegally occupying the curate's house be evicted from the property forthwith. Legal representations through the Diocesan lawyer, Mr Mike Chingore, are continuing. Meanwhile one of the Kunonga 'bishops' was trying to secure the release of the three arrested attackers.

Bp Sebastian Bakare has been kept informed and is deeply disturbed.

The Diocesan Offices have already been relocated away from Avondale and necessary office equipment is being sought.

Please continue to join us in prayer for this difficult situation.

(For some reason the All-Night prayer meeting scheduled to take place at St Luke's, Greendale last Fri/Sat did not happen. Those that went found no cars and the church locked. But in recent weeks a number of churches in high density areas have held All-Night prayer vigils which have been well attended.)

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