Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE returned June 3 from a week in the Anglican Diocese of Harare, Zimbabwe, where he had traveled at the request of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to demonstrate the Episcopal Church's solidarity with Anglicans there. Jefferts Schori had been invited to send a representative by the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, bishop of the Diocese of Harare.
During the week-long trip, which was not publicized in advance because of security concerns, Shaw met with 50 priests, lay people and human rights activists to hear their stories and to spread the presiding bishop's message of solidarity. He also preached in a parishioner's back yard to 400 members of a congregation that had been locked out of their church.
"I can report that the situation in Zimbabwe is indeed grave," wrote Shaw in a statement [see below] to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and to the House Foreign Relations Committee. "There are widespread violations of human rights, daily reports of murder and torture and an economic and humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions."
Harare has recently been the site of church lockouts and assaults on Anglicans by local police. On May 16, the New York Times reported that over the previous three Sundays, police had interrogated Anglican priests and lay leaders, arrested and beaten parishioners and locked thousands of worshipers out of dozens of churches, particularly those who did not follow then-Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, an active supporter of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
On May 12, Kunonga was excommunicated from the Harare diocese and replaced by Bishop Bakare.
Mugabe, who has controlled Zimbabwe for 28 years, has been accused of rigging the March 29 elections for president. The violent crackdowns and growing humanitarian crisis come as tensions rise before the June 27 run-off election against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.