Zimbabwe Christians Facing Famine And Persecution, Aid Workers Say
In Zimbabwe , church leaders are facing harassment from government officials who suspect them of supporting opposition political parties.
05/14/2008 Zimbabwe (BosNewsLife) — Christians in several areas of Zimbabwe faced more food shortages Wednesday, May 14, amid ongoing turmoil and reported persecution of churches in the country, once called ‘the breadbasket of Africa .’
Local and international churches backed by aid groups have said they are rushing to organize distribution of food aid among the poorest in their congregations.
Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid group working in the region, said support could not come soon enough. One, “church group had traveled by foot through the night to collect their food. We gave all that was left but it was sadly very clear that not all families received food. The local pastors explained that the food would be shared.”
A Barnabas Fund team arrived in the region to share food and water with local churches. “We were approached by a very embarrassed village head who said that it is customary in the Tomga culture to serve visitors with food and drink but they had none to give. It was quite apparent that this village was in a state of famine.”
However aid has been hampered by government officials suspicious of Christian leaders who have infiltrated various church organizations, Christians said. Several church leaders have reportedly their phones tapped and their e-mails monitored. In addition, Church officials apparently received phone calls from the intelligence agency asking why they were in contact with certain individuals or groups.
In published remarks, Barnabas Fund said prayer meetings have been stormed by police with dogs, batons and tear gas. “Many” church ministers have been beaten, arrested and falsely accused of organizing anti-government rallies, the group added.
Despite the reported obstacles, a Barnabas team added it managed to help at least some Christians with supplies and food packages. “The people were absolutely overjoyed and could not stop shaking our hands and hugging us…We slept in the village chief’s mud hut that night while the entire village gave prayers and songs of thanks and praise until two in the morning.”
The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) and Action by Churches Together are among other groups supplying food and medicines to vulnerable households. Over four million people need food immediately, British Methodists said.
The current crisis has been worsened by Zimbabwe ’s growing HIV/AIDS problem, said MRDF, together with inflation levels that are spiraling out of control – currently the highest in the world.
“The crisis in Zimbabwe has left millions of people without the means to feed themselves. By supporting this appeal, we hope to alleviate some of the suffering and give them a way of generating income in the future,” noted MRDF Director Kirsty Smith.