- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

HARARE, ZIMBABWE Anglican bishops are receiving death threats, and one worshipper who refused to follow an excommunicated leader was killed, according to a document viewed by the Associated Press that the worldwide head of the Anglican church gave to the country’s longtime ruler.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, handed over a report to President Robert Mugabe this week detailing incidents of intimidation.

The church here has been divided since 2007, when a pro-Mugabe bishop was excommunicated for inciting violence in his sermons.

Followers of Nolbert Kunonga maintain he is still the church’s legitimate leader, and they have taken over the main cathedral, hospitals, the church’s bank accounts and some 55 schools with the help of police loyal to Mr. Mugabe.

“In Harare, the police have disrupted church services and have been using tear gas and baton sticks to drive people out of church buildings,” the document read.

“As a consequence most churches lie empty each Sunday, except where a handful of Dr. Kunonga’s priests and their families are able to occupy them.”

Priests and deacons are arrested without charge on a weekly basis, often on a Friday, allowing the police to hold them over the weekend without charge, so that they cannot minister to their congregations, the report said.

Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe have received death threats over the phone, in person and at gunpoint, it added.

And in February, a parishioner who had refused to join Mr. Kunonga’s church was found slain, the report said.

“We have information which very strongly suggests that she was murdered because she belongs to the Diocese of Harare CPCA. She had received threats to that effect in preceding weeks and days as she consistently refused to join Dr. Kunonga’s church.”

Archbishop Williams told reporters after meeting with Mr. Mugabe on Monday that the president told him he was unfamiliar with the scale of intimidation the mainstream Anglicans in Zimbabwe are reporting.

Mr. Kunonga, who has denied the allegations against him, did not answer a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruled in August that Mr. Kunonga could retain control of Anglican properties until an appeal by the mainstream Anglican church is resolved.

That ruling was made by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who, like Mr. Kunonga, is an open supporter of Mr. Mugabe’s party.

Archbishop Williams said Monday his visit to the southern African nation was a show of solidarity with Zimbabwean Anglicans who “have suffered serious persecution at the hands of the police.”

Story Continues →