Global Christian leaders urge lifting of Zimbabwe’s ‘aid ban’


Geneva, 24 July (ENI)--A coalition of church organizations that includes the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches,has called for the lifting of a ban by Zimbabwe that has prevented humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental organizations from working in the country.

In a 24 July letter, leaders of the WCC, the World Student Christian Federation, WARC, the World Alliance of YWCAs and the World Alliance of YMCAs congratulated both Zimbabwe’s former ruling Zanu-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change, which now holds the majority of seats in the country’s parliament, for signing a memorandum of understanding on 21 July that commits the two sides to more talks.

“We greet the beginning of this critical round of negotiations with fervent hope for a new beginning for all Zimbabweans, restoration of peace, prosperity, dignity and the rule of law,” the church groups said in
their joint letter.

Senior negotiators from Zimbabwe’s MDC and Zanu-PF began talks on 24 July in the South African capital of Pretoria.The church leaders’ letter reminds the secular parties of the concern of churches, civil society and the people of Zimbabwe for a lasting and viable solution to the crisis in the southern African country. “We pray for all the negotiators so that they are guided by the best interests and deeper aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.”

The letter also states that violence and human rights abuses continue in Zimbabwe, and that millions face starvation, whilst thousands have lost homes and property.”We are appalled by reports of continuing violence in many parts of the country, particularly in the rural areas. All forms of violence,harassment, intimidation and torture must cease immediately in order to provide an environment truly conducive for peaceful negotiations,” the church leaders wrote.

The church groups also called for a lifting of the ban that has prevented humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental organizations from working in the country.”We further urge the parties to remain committed to a genuine restoration of the rule of law that rejects impunity but allows true reconciliation
and healing.,” the letter said.

The message from the Christian groups also states that it is “most regrettable” that none of the negotiating parties includes civil society or women, as Zimbabwean civil society representatives have called for so that the hopes of grassroots communities would not go unheard.

The church groups also urge the MDC and Zanu-PF to restore faith in Zimbabwe’s electoral system: “We would like to reaffirm the need to protect the integrity of elections as the most legitimate and democratic
way to express the sovereign will of the people, not only in Zimbabwe but throughout Africa.”

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