Pastors and advocates report that a new wave of persecution is washing over the churches of Zimbabwe as the country prepares for a new round of elections called by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party.

Churches are "being targeted and harassed by security agencies and militias which are controlled by ZANU PF," said Marlon Zakeyo, the Zimbabwe advocacy coordinator of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva. They are "in need of active and practical international solidarity and prayer," he said.

Reports from the Central African nation state that leaders of many of the country's evangelical, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and African Independent Churches—especially the Zion Christian Church and the VaPostori Apostolic sects—are being pressed into service by the regime to cement its hold on power.

While the former Anglican bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, has long used his church to back "Zimbabwe's Moses," ZANU PF is also alleged to have made a concerted effort to bring the Apostolic churches under its control.

Over the past two years members of the opposition party, MDC, have been expelled from many Apostolic churches, and some pastors have reportedly been killed for refusing to support the regime. The Zimbabwe Briefing, a South Africa-based publication supporting Mugabe's ouster, reports that some Apostolic leaders are telling their followers—estimated to number approximately 1 million—that Mugabe is the Archangel Gabriel and God's anointed ruler for Africa.

Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) executive director Useni Sibanda has condemned the political "invasion" of the Apostolic churches, and has urged "church leaders to maintain their credibility by not allowing themselves to be manipulated by ...

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