An Inside Look at Zimbabwe's Crisis

Archbishop Cites Years of Terror and Brutality

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BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, MAY 30, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Though international attention is recently focused on strife in Zimbabwe, the archbishop of Bulawayo says that the terror in that southern African country is nothing new.

Archbishop Pius Ncube, in an interview with the magazine Inside the Vatican, said that President Robert Mugabe has been using the army to inflict brutality for years.

The 60-year-old archbishop, speaking of the years before his episcopal ordination, said: "The 5th Brigade of Mugabe was killing innocent civilians -- this amounted to more than 10,000. Some of these people were my relatives.

"Estimates are that between 10,000 and 20,000 innocent civilians had been killed. Some of these people were over 70 and 80 years old, which shows how merciless the dictator Mugabe is."

In April, the bishops of Zimbabwe published a pastoral letter called "God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed." The letter pointed to Mugabe as the cause of the country's crisis.

Archbishop Ncube said: "It was imperative that such a letter be issued. The situation of the people was becoming worse and worse.

He added that after the letter's publication, the regime increased efforts to frighten priests, though "the intimidation of clergy has been on going for a long time."

"We were told: 'You keep to the Bible, to religious affairs, don't comment on political matters. If you want to come into politics, then give up your religious garb, and be a politician and then we will deal with you properly,'" Archbishop Ncube continued.

Source of hope

The archbishop affirmed that Benedict XVI has offered key support: "In 2005, the bishops of Zimbabwe had their 'ad limina' visits to Rome.

"At that time I spoke with him for a good 25 minutes explaining to him the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and asking him for his prayers and support.

"On Easter Sunday he quoted our current letter and spoke of the need to support African development."

"There is a lot of prayer in Zimbabwe right now," Archbishop Ncube said, "the praying of the rosary, night prayers to Our Lady for the country."

"In Bulawayo, we have no cloistered convents, but in Harare there is a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns," he added. "They are the powerhouses when it comes to prayer, and I have invited some Carmelites to come over to my diocese to assist in this."