Archbishops call for Robert Mugabe to resign

Alexandria, Egypt - Nearly 40 Anglican archbishops have called on Robert Mugabe to stand down as President of Zimbabwe.

Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, the 38 Primates said yesterday that they "note with horror the appalling difficulties" of the people of Zimbabwe and in particular the plight of many Christians being refused access to their churches.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is chairing the meeting, is expected to send an envoy to show solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.

The Primates also declared Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a day of prayer and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. Ash Wednesday falls on February 29 this year

The Primates, urging all Anglican parishes, dioceses and provinces to take any other action they can to support the people and churches of Zimbabwe, said: "We wish to assure them of our love, support and prayers as they face gross violation of human rights, hunger and loss of life as well as the scourge of a cholera epidemic, all due directly to the deteriorating socio-political and economic situation in Zimbabwe."

Describing it as a matter of grave concern that there had been a breakdown of law and order, they condemned the "flagrant disregard" of the democratic process that allowed Mugabe to hold on to power "illegitimately" .

The Primates said: "There appears to be a total disregard for life, consistently demonstrated by Mr Mugabe through systematic kidnap, torture and the killing of Zimbabwean people.

"We therefore call upon President Robert Mugabe to respect the outcome of the elections of 2008 and to step down. We call for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of democratic processes."

The problems in Zimbabwe have spread to the Anglican Communion's Central Africa Province, currently without a Primate. The Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, regarded as a puppet of the regime, was deposed by the province and Sebastian Bakare elected in his stead. Bishop Kunonga has resisted the deposition, and has seized churches and other property from the diocese. Anglicans who attempt to worship in the churches have suffered harrassment by police.

The Primates reiterated that they do not recognise the status of Kunonga and another "bishop", Elson Jakazi, as Anglican bishops. They called for the full restoration of Anglican property.