Bishop of Southwark urges vigilance on Zimbabwe, stresses positive role played by churches

On 7th December 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Luce, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the situation in Zimbabwe; and what plans they have to work internationally to facilitate the recovery of that country.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I have come to your Lordships’ House today from Lambeth Palace, where I have been chairing the Zimbabwe round table. Also present at that meeting was the Bishop of Harare, the right reverend Dr Chad Gandiya, who is staying with me on his brief visit to this country. Yesterday Bishop Chad met with Rory Stewart, the Africa Minister. My conversations with Bishop Chad have further informed my own thinking on Zimbabwe—a country with which I have a long association, particularly through close links between my diocese and four of the five Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe.

I shall set out two priorities that I hope will be borne in mind by Her Majesty’s Government in approaching the situation in Zimbabwe, and I am encouraged that the Prime Minister has described this nation as Zimbabwe’s oldest friend. The first is the need for vigilance. It remains to be seen whether the recent events, though thankfully peaceful, are a change for the country as a whole or simply an internal reordering of ZANU-PF. Whether the army will intervene again is also unknown. Zimbabwe is still in transition. In this connection, I shall quote the wise words of another Zimbabwean bishop, the Bishop of Matabeleland, the right reverend Cleophas Lunga, who wrote to me last month:

“I believe that inadequate transitions create reoccurrences of conflicts and reconciliation becomes elusive”.

Reconciliation and accountability are therefore both needed now in equal and urgent measure to encourage governance that is focused on serving the people rather than self-serving.

Secondly, I wish to highlight the constructive role that the churches in Zimbabwe have played and will continue to play—in particular the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has both a national reach and a rich network of local relationships. It has implemented successful development programmes and will continue to do so. It is also well connected with the wider Anglican Communion, particularly in this country. It is and will continue to be an effective partner for all who wish to see Zimbabwe flourish, with justice and freedom for all. We must use well this opportunity to help Zimbabwe to achieve the better tomorrow that has been so long and forbearingly awaited.


Baroness Goldie (Con) [Minister]: ..The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark made a powerful contribution. He said that the United Kingdom is Zimbabwe’s oldest friend and talked about vigilance and the role of the churches. I was very struck with the words that he quoted from his colleague the Bishop of Matabeleland; there was a great deal of wisdom in these words and I am sure that they will have been noted across the Chamber and in Hansard for others to read.

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