Evangelicals in Zimbabwe are emerging as voices of moderation and reconciliation amid their country's seemingly unstoppable slide into chaos.

Heads of churches recently selected Andrew Wutawunashe, the outgoing president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), to call for "immediate efforts to defuse the racial, political, and social polarization that has characterized President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution process."

The program, ruled illegal by Zimbabwe's highest court and decried by agricultural experts as a recipe for disaster, calls for land to be taken from minority whites and given to members of the black majority. Whites make up just 1 percent of Zimbabwe's population but hold 70 percent of the arable land. The government also has ignored calls to refrain from illegal and brutal tactics against political opponents, journalists, and judges.

Addressing a crowded press conference on January 25, Wutawunashe read a conciliatory statement signed jointly by EFZ, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. While supporting fair and lawful land distribution, the statement also called for an end to violent and illegal land acquisition by landless black Zimbabweans.

Wutawunashe appealed to the government, the international community, white commercial farmers, and landless Zimbabweans "to listen to the voice of the church because it is a voice of wisdom."

Wutawunashe, meanwhile, has stepped down as EFZ president after a dispute involving money he raised in a fruitless attempt to have the National Constitutional Commission declare Zimbabwe a Christian country.

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