Tired of watching their once-prosperous country deteriorate, Zimbabwe's church leaders have banded together and called on fellow citizens to denounce President Robert Mugabe's actions.

Nine Catholic bishops penned an Easter letter, the strongest joint attack on Mugabe's government from churches to date. The letter pointed out that, as in the colonial era, the current conflict in Zimbabwe pits those determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth—even at the cost of bloodshed—against those demanding democratic rights.

"We are not exactly sure how to persuade Mugabe to accept that changes are needed," said Father Nigel Johnson, a Catholic priest. "Right now, there's no sign of his accepting [the letter]."

Zimbabwe's economy has crumbled since Mugabe, 83, took over following the end of white-supremacist rule in 1980. Inflation runs 1,593 percent annually, and unemployment tops 80 percent. Nearly two years ago, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina ("Take Out the Trash"), during which the government bulldozed homes he said were built illegally. Thousands of victims remain homeless.

Despite Western travel sanctions imposed on Mugabe and 100 of his top-ranking officials, Southern African leaders openly support the former freedom fighter and senior statesman of the region. And the central committee of the ruling Zanu-PF party still backs Mugabe as its presidential candidate for the country's 2008 elections.

Interdenominational leaders have also called for peace in a National Vision Discussion letter that is circulating in the country. Roy Musasiwa, a contributor to the National Vision Discussion and principal of Domboshawa Theological College, paints a picture of a country on the brink of total meltdown. Violence ...

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Christianity Today
High-Stakes Protest
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June 2007

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