Zimbabwe's Anglicans defy riot police with return to church

Harare, Zimbabwe - Sebastian Bakare, the Anglican Bishop of Harare, ignored the riot policeman at the altar trying disrupt his Sunday service, and carried on with worship. In front of the church’s first full congregation for years Bishop Bakare told the representative of Zimbabwe’s security services: “If you want to attack me, I am in your hands.”

Yesterday Bishop Bakare recounting the incident that highlights the tension between Church and State.

Since September 2007 the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has been controlled by Nolbert Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare and a zealot of Robert Mugabe’s repressive regime. He broke away from the Lambeth Palace-affiliated Harare diocese, and defied a high court ruling last year ordering him him to share churches with his Anglican rivals.

A fortnight ago the Church secured an affidavit from Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, in which denied knowing anything about a police operation to force Anglicans away from their churches. It was read to parishioners by Anglican priests wherever they met, and they were urged to return to their churches on Sunday.

Emboldened by the formation of the new power-sharing Government, the church’s flock is now beginning to return in force.