Archbishop wants to meet with Mugabe over Anglican persecution allegations

Story highlights

  • Archbishop is making a visit to Zimbabwe
  • He asked to meet with President Mugabe over persecution allegations
  • There are two Anglican factions in the country
The Archbishop of Canterbury, concerned about the treatment of loyal Anglicans in Zimbabwe, hasn't heard yet whether President Robert Mugabe will meet with him, a church official said Saturday.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, whose three-country visit began in Malawi, wants to meet Monday with Mugabe, said Williams' press officer, Marie Papworth.
"He is going to Zimbabwe to show solidarity with the clergy," Papworth told CNN. "This is a pastoral and not a political visit, but he would want to speak to President Mugabe about the reports he has received from Anglicans being persecuted."
Complicating the situation are the two Anglican factions in Zimbabwe.
A breakaway faction is led by ousted Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, an ally of Mugabe. According to reports, Kunonga said gay priests had gained too much influence in the church.
The other faction, recognized by the Anglican Communion, is led by Chad Gandiya.
Two months ago, Zimbabwe's supreme court confirmed Gandiya as the Bishop of Harare but placed all Anglican properties in Zimbabwe in the custody of Kunonga.
Armed with eviction orders, Kunonga has reportedly evicted supporters of his rival from buildings owned by the church, including schools and orphanages. Gandiya has blamed police for harassment, according to The New York Times.
Williams has indicated he believes the intimidation is government sponsored.
"That violence is actively supported by the police, despite court judgments in favor of the new leadership," he wrote in 2010.
Williams is expected to preach Sunday at the City Sports Centre in Harare and meet local church leaders.
At a recent press conference, Kunonga called the archbishop a British diplomat coming to Zimbabwe to represent neo-colonialism.
In 2008, at the height of a violent crackdown against opposition supporters in Zimbabwe, Williams took the view that talking to Mugabe would be fruitless.
"The problem is of course that coming from a church, which in his mind is clearly associated with the colonial past, there is very little moral leverage that any of us have, which is why direct appeals to President Mugabe are most unlikely to produce any results."