A Zimbabwean Catholic archbishop, Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, 288 miles southwest of Harare, says that the church risks losing the trust of the public if it supports a government which is unjust and bent on the use of violence.

Writing in the latest edition of Catholic Church News, a magazine published by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC), Archbishop Ncube said the church must not condone injustice and should be willing to make itself unpopular by challenging unjust structures.

Many Zimbabweans believe that churches and related organizations have failed to challenge the policies and practices of the government, led by President Robert Mugabe. But Archbishop Ncube has frequently criticized the Mugabe government. His latest statement is a thinly veiled criticism of the political troubles in this southern African nation.

Since February last year, Zimbabwe has experienced many serious outbreaks of violence, much of it led by supporters of President Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF and by people claiming to be veterans of Zimbabwe's struggle for independence in the 1970s. The violence has been directed at white farmers, white-owned companies and supporters of the mainly black opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

At least 30 people have been killed in the violence. The government, which is expropriating white-owned farms to settle landless blacks under a land redistribution program, has been accused of condoning the violence.

"When the church is afraid of criticizing social injustices, it risks God's reprimand and punishment because it is compromising God's standard and God's Word," Archbishop Ncube said. "The church risks loss of public confidence if it backs a government which is unjust and engages in violence."

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