Did you catch the New York Times’ harrowing front pager last week on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s crackdown on Anglican priests and worshippers in advance of an expected runoff election there?
Here’s the opening vignette:
The parishioners were lined up for Holy Communion on Sunday when the riot police stormed the stately St. Francis Anglican Church in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Helmeted, black-booted officers banged on the pews with their batons as terrified members of the congregation stampeded for the doors, witnesses said.
A policeman swung his stick in vicious arcs, striking matrons, a girl and a grandmother who had bent over to pick up a Bible dropped in the melee. A lone housewife began singing from a hymn in Shona, “We will keep worshiping no matter the trials!” Hundreds of women, many dressed in the Anglican Mothers’ Union uniform of black skirt, white shirt and blue headdress, lifted their voices to join hers.
Beneath their defiance, though, lay raw fear as the country’s ruling party stepped up its campaign of intimidation ahead of a presidential runoff. In a conflict that has penetrated ever deeper into Zimbabwe’s social fabric, the party has focused on a growing roster of groups that elude its direct control — a list that includes the Anglican diocese of Harare, as well as charitable and civic organizations, trade unions, teachers, independent election monitors and the political opposition
A day after the story ran, Hillary Clinton issued a most unusual response: a call to pray for Zimbabwe’s persecuted. Here’s her statement:
As the turmoil in Zimbabwe continues after a seriously tainted election process, President Mugabe is employing brutal tactics against dissenters in an attempt to retain power. In addition to raids on opposition party offices and the killing of opposition democracy activists by Mugabe supporters, there are increasing reports that the police are interrogating, arresting, and beating Anglican parishioners and preventing them from attending Church.
“I join with people of all faiths in the United States and around the globe in calling for an end to the religious persecution taking place in Zimbabwe. These offenses are an affront to everyone and, as we know, religious persecution anywhere is a call to action everywhere.
“Zimbabwe’s families and communities teeter on the edge of starvation and economic distress while intimidation and violence toward people of faith is being carried out by the ruling party.
“This past Sunday while many participated in Holy Communion, a church service was raided and congregants had to run for safety instead of participating in their most holy sacrament. We, as a free nation, must join in prayer for the faithful of Zimbabwe. In April, the worldwide Anglican Communion called on everyone to pray for Zimbabwe’s rescue ‘from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption.’
“Let us all join in this call to prayer seeking an end to the persecution, for the church of Zimbabwe to remain faithful and strong for justice and truth, for an end to the drought that is creating a food crisis, for those suffering from the HIV/AIDS pandemic and their families and the clergy who are weary in their ministry. Let’s work to lift up this nation during their time of distress.
“As First Lady and Senator, I have spoken out against religious persecution around the world, from China to Afghanistan to Ukraine. And in places such as Northern Ireland, I have worked on behalf of religious reconciliation to help foster peace. As President, I will continue to speak out for religious freedom and work towards religious tolerance and peace around the world.”
While God-o-Meter gets plenty of prayer requests from the Family Research Council, it seldom does from politicians–of either party.