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26 April 2000

Leading world Christian organisations prepared to send joint team to Zimbabwe

The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) are prepared to send a pastoral team to Zimbabwe to support the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) in its effort to provide ethical and moral guidance for good governance in that country.

In a joint letter addressed to the ZCC general secretary, Mr. Densen Mafinyani, the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, and the LWF general secretary, Dr Ishmael Noko, refer to "this critical time of decision-making" for the nation in view of recent violence and political tension, and assure the churches in Zimbabwe of "our prayers, solidarity and accompaniment".

In the letter dated 25 April, the general secretaries of two of the world’s leading international church organisations state: "The global ecumenical fellowship that accompanied you through the daunting struggle for independence of Zimbabwe and in the process of building a new nation remains with you today."

Raiser and Noko particularly refer to a consultative meeting on 26 April (today) in the capital Harare, which the ZCC has organised for leaders of political parties in the southern African country, with the aim of reflecting with them on their responsibilities to promote the common good.

Since last February, squatters said to be led by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war have been occupying white-owned farms. Commenting on the resulting tensions, Raiser and Noko expressed regret that in spite of national and international outcry "the violence exercised with the tacit approval of the Government has not subsided, but rather has taken more lives and heightened tensions, further leading the country to the brink of collapse of order and the rule of law".

In a six-point proposal, Raiser and Noko express their "own convictions" that land ownership can only be democratised by ensuring "fair distribution through a clearly defined, equitable and democratically-controlled land reform". In this respect, the churches have a moral and spiritual obligation to provide leadership and to advocate on behalf of and uphold the rights of all, especially the powerless, the voiceless and marginalised.

Concerning an effective plan for land reform, the representatives of the WCC and LWF express the need for a wise and careful review of the commercial farming sector to ensure that the agro-based economy and farm labourers are not unduly affected. They point to the plight of the 300,000 farm workers, some of them migrant labourers from neighbouring countries, and say the rights of such people "need to be protected".

"The rights of white farm owners who have chosen to remain in Zimbabwe and to contribute to its development must also be respected," Raiser and Noko state. They criticise the uncontrolled process of land occupation "without a solid plan for land redistribution," saying this has led to racial violence and the deaths of black and white Zimbabweans alike.

According to the proposals made by Raiser and Noko, a fair policy would also ensure that the landless are compensated for the deprivation of land by the colonialists, and landowners for the labour and capital invested in developing the agricultural sector. In addition, they state that the international community and especially the former colonial power have an obligation to help finance the programme for fair and democratic distribution of land.

The leaders of the two world Christian bodies appeal to national and international media to report "on the land debate and ensuing problems dispassionately and in an objective and balanced way".

Tomorrow, 27 April, the full text of the joint letter will be posted in English, French, German and Spanish on this website.

For further information, please contact:
WCC Media Relations Office (see below)
or lwi Assistant Editor (LWF) Pauline Mumia,
Tel.: (+41.22) 791 63.54

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.