Anglican Church Province of Central Africa Backs Mugabe

From the Harare Herald:

THE Anglican Church Province of Central Africa has added its voice to the growing condemnation of the illegal Western sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and called for their scrapping, urging Britain to honour its obligations to fund land reforms in the country.

In their Pastoral letter issued at the end of their Episcopal Synod in Harare last week, the 14 bishops and one canon, among them the head of the Province of Central Africa, the Most Rev Bernard Amos Malango, acknowledged that the economic situation in Zimbabwe stemmed from illegal sanctions.

The article’s author, a hack named Caesar Zvayi, adds some toadying commentary:

…The Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter exposes the patently political nature of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference that released its own letter ahead of the Easter holidays, accusing President Mugabe and the Government of corrupt governance and human rights abuses.

…Last month, MDC factions embarked on orgies of violence disguised as a “defiance campaign,” through which they sought to depose the Government in the streets. When their attempts were thwarted, they launched terrorist activities that saw them assault police officers, burn private and public property and carry out 11 reported petrol bombings on police stations and private property.

…The Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter left egg on the face of the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Willams who, last month, tried to pressure his bishops, among them Dr [Nolbert] Kunonga, to join the bandwagon of condemning the Government for alleged human rights excesses.

I blogged on religious support for Mugabe just a few weeks ago. Kunonga, as I noted then, is known throughout Zimbabwe as “His Disgrace”, and his lavish praise for the depressingly long-lived tyrant has won him numerous worldly rewards. Kunonga has also long enjoyed the protection of Archbishop Malango, although I also noted that there were signs of a split. It looks as though they’ve patched things up, then.

Here are the rest of Mugabe’s Anglican allies:

Christopher J. Boyle (Northern Malawi), Albert Chama (Northern Zambia), Elson Jakazi (Manicaland), Derek Kamukwamba (Central Zambia), Nolbert Kunonga (Harare), William Muchombo (Eastern Zambia), Ishmael Mukuwanda (Central Zimbabwe), Robert Mumbi (Luapula) Trevor Mwamba (Botswana), David Njovu (Lusaka), Wilson Sitshebo (Matabeleland), Godfrey Tawonezvi (Masvingo), James Tengatenga (Southern Malawi), and Rev. Canon Michael Mkoko, Vicar General of the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Row Over Claim of Nigerian Pilgrims Raped in Sinai

Curious news from Nigeria (link added):

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs Wednesday denied claims that some female pilgrims were raped by Egyptians as they attempted to climb Mount Sinai in St Catherina City, Egypt in April.

“We wish to dismiss this report as a deliberate falsehood,” the statement signed by director, FCT Christian Pilgrims Board, Mr. Laz Gaza. “No such incident occurred or was brought to the notice of the FCT head, Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs…We also want to dismiss the claims that both Nigerian and Israeli authorities have protested on the allegation to Egyptian authority as falsehood as nothing of such magnitude took place. We view this as a deliberate effort by the reporter to sour the long cordial working relationship that has existed between Egypt and Nigeria.

Pilgrimages are organised at the state level in Nigeria; the FCT is the area around the capital, Abuja. The original report had been published in the Daily Champion on 2 April, and was by a journalist named Daniel Idonor. That report claimed that “many” women had been raped by local camel-riders, who lured women pilgrims into isolated places:

…Already, both the Nigerian and Israeli authorities have formally protested to the Egyptian authorities through the country’s police over the incident. The leader of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Pilgrims (Batch one), Mrs Helen Oloja, who is also the Director of Legal Services in the FCT Administration, launched Nigeria’s protest before the Israeli officials moment after she arrived Israel border from the Mt Sinai.

One Ms Jone, an Israeli official, and a senior employee of the Immanuel Tours Agency,…could not hold her emotion, but wept profusely.

…Also commenting on the incident, the FCT director of the Christians’ Pilgrim Welfare Board, Mr Laz Gaza, who spoke to Daily Champion at the Hilton Hotel in Taba, Egypt, expressed deep shock over the incident; and promised to make official complaints to the Nigeria government through the FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the National Technical Committee on Pilgrimage, headed by Archbishop Ola Makinde, for necessary action.

So what’s going on? Did Idonor make up the original quotes from the aptly-named Laz Gaza and the others? Or is Gaza now back-tracking for political reasons of his own? And if the “incident” occurred, to what extent does it suggest a serious endemic problem?

Meanwhile, an account of pilgrims heading to Sinai from another state in Nigeria was published a couple of weeks ago here:

…they set out for the famous Mount Sinai, which is said to be where Moses received the Ten Commandments…In spite of several warnings about the dangers of making the climb, hundreds of pilgrims headed for the hills at the appointed time in the bitter cold, with temperatures reading twelve degree centigrade. The Nigerian pilgrims were accompanied by large groups of pilgrims from far off places like the UK, Australia, China, Japan among many others. The going was tough but the pilgrims, including old men and women over 60 years old, bravely kept on going. It was amazing to see them encourage and help one another along the punishing trail. The Nigerians particularly rejected offers by the Bedouin locals to convey them up the trail on camel back, which elicited hostility from the locals. By sunset, most of the pilgrims had made it to the summit of the mountain and were already downward bound.

Most of the pilgrims agreed that the climb marked the climax of the pilgrimage for them. Matoh Dogara, a commissioner in Kaduna State, told Newswatch that his ability to make it to the top of Mount Sinai marked a milestone in his life. Dogara said he believes that the experience would make him a better Christian. Victor Yakubu, chairman of the state’s Christian pilgrims welfare board, expressed satisfaction at the successful completion of the climb up the Sinai. Rev. Yakubu was particularly thankful that his aged mother was able to make it to the summit of the mountain. “It has been something of an obsession to her,” Yakubu told New Nigerian on Sunday shortly after the climb. “It was a really hard decision for me to allow her attempt such a risky thing, but thank God she has fulfilled her heart’s desire.”

As an aside, Gaza’s statement of denial includes the following incidental detail:

“The FCT Directorate of Christian Pilgrims Affairs expresses shock that the reporter failed to report…the miracles of healing that took place at the Wailing Wall of Old Jerusalem City…”

Of course, many Christians respect the Jewish holy place (even many of those who don’t feel the need to fantasize about destroying the nearby mosques), but for the Western Wall (preferable usage to “Wailing Wall”) to become regarded as a place of miraculous healing in a Christian context is an interesting development. This Christian website offers a virtual Western Wall where prayers can be lodged.