Letter from Clare Amos
Sitting in our kitchen at home are four small tin mugs. They have been there for a few months, since I visited Harare in the middle of February. The mugs are decorated with the crest of the Mothers’ Union, and the letters CPCA. That stands for the phrase Church of the Province of Central Africa – because that is the Province of the Anglican Communion to which the Anglicans of Zimbabwe belongs (as well as the Anglicans of Malawi, Zambia and Botswana). I bought the mugs from the Mothers’ Union shop in Harare – intending to give them as a gesture of solidarity to the Mothers’ Union in Upchurch. I still intend to do that – so I will try and get them to Upchurch as soon as possible! (If you are a member of Upchurch Mothers’ Union please keep reminding me until I do!)
What had taken me to Harare was a meeting of the Anglican Communion theological education working group which I am responsible for as part of my work in the Anglican Communion Office. Bishop Chad Gandiya, the Anglican bishop of Harare, is a member of the working group, and we had chosen to hold our meeting in Harare as a gesture of solidarity with Bishop Chad. As well as having our business discussion, the working group, largely composed of people involved in theological education from different parts of the Anglican Communion, offered two days of training for the clergy of Harare Diocese – and a number of other parts of CPCA. I am sure that we learned as much as we gave. We certainly stood in awe of our Anglican brothers and sisters in Harare who face persecution on a regular basis (there is no other word for it) for their faith.
The story goes like this: Some years ago there was appointed as bishop of Harare a certain Nolbert Kunonga who was and is a crony of Robert Mugabe. There may have been an element of corruption in his appointment – but whether or not that was the case, the bullying and unchristian behaviour of Bishop Nolbert soon became apparent. It didn’t take long before the other bishops of the Province decided that Bishop Nolbert needed to be replaced and they went through the due constitutional process that legally allowed his dismissal. Eventually Bishop Chad was appointed in his stead. But (as you might expect) Bishop Nolbert was not keen to recognise the new situation – and with President Mugabe’s help has been making life difficult for Bishop Chad and his people ever since.
So the ‘proper’ Anglicans (linked to Chad) are locked out of all the churches in the diocese and they meet in a variety of other settings: schools, halls, outdoor parks – wherever they can find a place. But it hasn’t led to the decrease of the church – instead rather its growth. So my colleagues and I on the theological education working group all found ourselves preaching to congregations of 500+ on the Sunday morning. It was a powerful and moving experience. We learned a hymn that is a favourite of Bishop Chad and his clergy – in English it repeats the words ‘Watch and pray’ and we certainly felt that was what we discovered from our friends in Harare. (I have the music for this on an electronic file and would love to share it on some occasion.)
But I mentioned persecution – and that doesn’t simply mean being locked out of your church. Shortly before we arrived Bishop Chad and a number of other clergy had received sinister death threats and while we were there an elderly lay worker – Jessica – was killed apparently because she was a faithful Anglican.
It was while I was in Harare that I learned of the sudden death of my mother. Difficult though that situation was – there was a sense that I could not have learned of such sad news in a better place – among courageous Anglican brothers and sisters willing to suffer and die for their Christian faith.