A prominent Catholic priest, Oskar Wermter, has called for an "uprising of the conscience" to end the lawlessness troubling Zimbabwe.

Warning that Zimbabwe could drift towards a bloody civil war, Father Wermter called for a fundamental change of heart as violence erupts in many parts of the country.

The priest blamed the violence on the continued glorification of the heroes of Zimbabwe's liberation war in the 1970s. Many war veterans have, with the tacit approval of the government, been taking over white-owned farms, and, in some cases, murdering the owners. Violence has also been directed at the mainly black opposition movement, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

War veterans are also playing a leading role in campaigning against whites and against opponents of the government.

Father Wermter, a white priest and frequent critic of President Robert Mugabe's government, is the communications secretary of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC).

In an article he wrote for a Harare newspaper, The Daily News, Wermter said that respect for human life should overrule everything else. His criticisms follow the murder of Peter Mataruse, a member of the MDC in Muzarabani, 250 miles north of Harare, on March 24.

Robson Tinarwo, another supporter of the opposition party, drowned in Musengezi River on the same day while fleeing government supporters and war veterans in the same area.

In February, Gloria Olds, a 72-year-old white farmer in Nyamandlovu, about 320 miles south of Harare, was shot dead at her farm.

More than 30 people, mainly MDC supporters and white farmers, were killed in political violence during the run-up to parliamentary elections last June.

The ruling Zanu PF party and veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war have ...

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