Finally, a Western church official is condemning the increasingly brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
It has been a long-time coming. The reticence is due, perhaps in part, to the fact that left-leaning Western church groups helped to install Mugabe in power nearly 30 years ago.
Noting his own group's support for Zimbabwe's path to "liberation" in the 1970's, the head of the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is now condemning Mugabe's "unprecedented brutality and oppression." On March 15, LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko asked the Africa Union to lean against Mugabe.
"The attacks upon opposition leaders, human rights workers and journalists are mounting daily in number and severity," Noko observed. "Participants in peaceful demonstrations and expressions of resistance have been imprisoned, attacked, wounded and killed," he wrote. "The government of Zimbabwe is prepared to use the instruments of State power against its own people in complete disregard for their human rights and for the government's own constitutional responsibilities."
Noko also described the "collapse" of Zimbabwe's once functional economy, the hyper-inflation, and the flood of refugees out of Zimbabwe. "The grievances of the people with regard to poverty, unemployment, security, and abuse of power represent fundamental failures of government," Noko wrote. "And in addition to destroying his own people and the image of his country, Mr Mugabe's actions are destroying all possibilities for rebuilding the image of African political leadership in general."
The Lutheran cleric wants Mugabe's regime to reverse his "self-destructive course, to cease its attacks upon its own people, to correct its failed economic policies, and to reverse its aggressive isolationism." Noko recalled that his LWF had "stood in strong solidarity with the struggle for freedom and independence for Zimbabwe."
Many leftist-led Western church groups did considerably more for Mugabe than simply stand in solidarity. Starting in the late 1960,'s, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) began funding Mugabe's ZANU guerrilla insurrection in then white-controlled Rhodesia. In 1974, Anglican bishops in Rhodesia observed with "disgust" that the WCC had granted 6000 pounds to ZANU. Pointing to ZANU's terrorism aimed at both white and black civilians, the bishops lamented: "Far and away the majority of these have been Africans, innocent of any offense and most have been killed with great brutality. Others have been abducted, raped, beaten and disfigured."
By the late 1970's, Rhodesia's white minority regime was negotiating with the non-violent black opposition for a bi-racial democracy. But the WCC and other leftist Western church groups sided with the Marxist guerrilla movements, like Mugabe's ZANU, over more moderate and non-violent black opposition parties. In 1978, the WCC granted $85,000 to ZANU. Methodist Bishop Abel Muzorewa was elected in 1979 as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's first black prime minister. But even agencies of the United Methodist Church preferred Mugabe's Marxist guerrillas to their own bishop.
In 1978-1979, the New York-based United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries gave over $5,000 to Mugabe's ZANU. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe understandably complained: "We just can't understand why the American church sides with our enemies. Doesn't it seem strange to you that our brothers and sisters ... would support people who want to close our churches?"
United Methodist and WCC support for ZANU and its partners in the Patriotic Front was not deterred by the guerilla movement's atrocities. Mugabe-allied guerillas murdered seven Roman Catholic missionaries in 1977 and killed 12 people at a Pentecostal missions post in 1978. That same year, the guerrillas also shot down a civilian airliner. In response, the WCC preferred to fault the "regime's persistent refusal to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Zimbabwe [Patriotic Front] leaders."
When Mugabe finally took power in 1980, he thanked a visiting WCC delegation WCC delegation for its "commitment to the principles for which you and we have struggled together." Eighteen years later, after Mugabe had effectively squelched what was left of Zimbabwe's democracy, the WCC's Eighth Assembly met in Harare, Zimbabwe. Speaking before the applauding delegates, Mugabe thanked the international assembly of church officials for their "courageous gesture" 30 years earlier to start funding his revolutionary movement. "It marked a great shift from the traditional acquiescence and even complicity which characterized the church-colonial state relations in almost all colonial settings," declared Mugabe, who noted that Christian missionaries had opposed the WCC's support for him. "Today, when we look back, we say the WCC helped the local church re-examine its assumptions of social and political relations in the context of true Christian tenets."
Probably Mugabe would believe that the Lutheran official now condemning his regime's human rights abuses is not living up to "true Christian tenets." For Mugabe, true Christianity has meant little more than exploiting gullible leftist church groups in the West for its own chicanery and brutality. Maybe at least one or two of those once supportive church groups will acknowledge their errors before Mugabe's notorious regime degenerates any further.
Read the entire article on the Front Page Magazine website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of the author.