NI Missionary Faces Prison In Zimbabwe Over Prayers

A Northern Ireland clergyman is facing prison in Zimbabwe for holding a street prayer meeting.

The Rev Noel Scott, who has been a missionary in Bulawayo for more than 30 years, could be jailed for two years for breaching the Public Order and Security Act when he stands trial next month.

The retired Anglican priest was arrested and briefly imprisoned with three other church leaders for praying on the pavement on their way to a prayer meeting for peace two years ago in the run-up to a presidential election.

However, magistrates threw out the summons over a year ago as "defective" and "out of the blue".

Mr Scott has now received a new summons and will stand trial on renewed charges of breaching Zimbabwe's controversial security law which prohibits the holding of certain types of public gatherings or marches that have not been sanctioned by the police.

In a letter to the Church of Ireland Dean of St Patrick's in Dublin, Mr Scott revealed how he has been on remand since he was first arrested.

"Since then I have made seven or eight appearances in court," he said.

"Thousands of people are on remand and the magistrates keep on postponing their cases.

"It's a reflection on the general lawlessness here and is a form of intimidation."

Mr Scott, who was ordained in 1960 for the assistant curacy of Ballymacarrett in the Diocese of Down, has been offered sanctuary by the Church of Ireland but he is refusing to leave the community he has given his life to help.

Despite being retired, the shortage of clergy means he is "not short of work," he told Dean Mac-Carthy.

"I'm also very involved with Christians Together for Justice and Peace of which I'm a founder member with Archbishop Pius and others and we do what we can within the limits imposed."

David Coltart, a lawyer and Member of Parliament for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the pastors and church members had been charged under the draconian new security laws with "disobeying the command of a police officer".