Churches Pulled Down in 'Clean-Up'

Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe - TWO church buildings belonging to the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God Africa (Zaoga) in Chitungwiza were last week demolished because "they were built on illegal ground", The Standard has established.

Pastor Kweshe of the Zaoga Church in Seke said they were forced to demolish the house of God and the members were now holding their prayers in the open.

He said: "Our churches were said to be on illegal ground and we were ordered to demolish them. We actually saved the benches and the asbestos roofing sheets which are now being kept at the elders' homes until we build another church."

Kweshe said the churches were destroyed despite the fact that they were given the approval to build by Chitungwiza Town Council.

The demolitions of church buildings in Chitungwiza come barely a fortnight after an Islamic Mosque in Hatcliffe was also razed to the ground during the government's controversial "clean-up" operation.

The operation has been condemned as a gross violation of human rights as more than a million people have been thrown out of their homes while thousands lost their jobs.

The exercise has also forced hundreds of thousands of children to drop out of school, following the displacement of their parents.

Several organisations, including church bodies have called on the government to stop the "insensitive and inappropriate" operation.

In a press statement the Christians Together for Justice and Peace condemned the clean-up exercise, which they said "smacks of a callous indifference to the plight of the poor".

Roman Catholic Bishops also attacked "self-proclaimed Christians in the government", saying: "They live a double life, one for Sunday services in the church and another for public tasks be they political, economic social or any other kind."

President Robert Mugabe, who has openly supported the operation, says he is a devout Catholic.

The bishops said the operation violated "innate human dignity given by the Creator" because of the "ruthless manner" in which it was conducted.