BY STAFF REPORTER
THE ZIMBABWEAN bishops' Easter letter, which strongly criticised President Robert Mugabe's government, does not diminish the Church's support for national dialogue, the president of the bishops' conference has said.
Mugabe's government, as a "key stakeholder," cannot be ignored in the process of seeking change in the country, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare told a two-day meeting of regional church and civil society leaders in the capital, Harare. But "engaging a stakeholder does not mean that you endorse" its policies, he said.
In response to questions on what actions would follow the bishops' letter, entitled God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed, Archbishop Ndlovu said people need "to pray, reflect and try to understand" the letter, which urged those responsible for the country's crisis to "repent and listen to the cry of their citizens".
Noting the commitment of the bishops' conference to the call it made, along with leaders of other Christian churches last year for a national vision to rescue Zimbabwe, Archbishop Ndlovu said that support "does not stop us from addressing current issues according to the way we perceive them as pastors".
Zimbabwe is crippled by the highest rate of inflation in the world, unemployment of more than 80 per cent, and shortages of foreign currency and fuel.
Strikes and protests since the beginning of the year have been met with increasing violence by government forces.
In an address to the meeting. Walter Kamba, former vice-chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, said he agreed with the bishops' Easter letter that the crisis in Zimbabwe is essentially a crisis of governance.
"The high inflation, poverty, collapse of the economy and many service systems in Zimbabwe are only symptoms of a faulty foundation and bad governance," Mr Kamba said.
David Kaulemu, a coordinator of the Harare-based African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching, said that after Zimbabwe gained independence from Great Britain in 1980 "the Church relaxed" and allowed the government to "take over the formation of moral values", which resulted in decadence.
"To promote any meaningful social transformation in the Church and society of Zimbabwe," people need to take seriously the Church's social teaching, he said.
The government urged "the peace-loving flock and other well-meaning clergymen to ignore the programme of prayer meetings that are called for in the pastoral letter."