Zimbabwe police ban open-air prayer meetings
“We were told last week that churches are no longer allowed to hold prayer meetings in the open except on church premises,”
05/22/2008 Zimbabwe (ENI)-After police invoked security laws to ban open-air prayer meetings in some parts of the country, a Zimbabwean church group has said that freedom to worship in the southern African country is being infringed in the weeks before a presidential election run-off in June.
“We were told last week that churches are no longer allowed to hold prayer meetings in the open except on church premises,” Pastor Useni Sibanda, a spokesperson for the group called Churches in Bulawayo, told Ecumenical News International on 20 May.
Churches in Bulawayo is a loose coalition of congregations in Zimbabwe ‘s second-biggest city. “In the past there were no restrictions on where churches could hold meetings, and for us this is actually an infringement on our right to freedom of worship,” Sibanda said.
Zimbabwe held local, parliamentary and presidential elections on 29 March, as a result of which President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party lost its majority in parliament. According to the official results, none of the four presidential candidates managed to get the majority vote required to avoid a second round.
Churches in Bulawayo is among Christian groups that are openly critical of Mugabe. “The police and the government should keep their hands off the church. It’s not their domain,” said Sibanda.
Still, authorities have denounced some faith-based groups, such as Churches in Bulawayo and another organization called the Christian Alliance, both of which are openly critical of Mugabe’s government.