13 June 2008- Zimbabwe is on the brink of an avoidable humanitarian crisis that could cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, said international and regional leaders of the Catholic Church.
President of Caritas Internationalis Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez and Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference said in a joint statement that Zimbabwe’s suspension of international aid activities and spiralling political violence meant millions of people are suffering.
Caritas members directly feed over a million people in Zimbabwe, and their projects help over three million people. Caritas targets the most vulnerable, women, children and the sick. Caritas has suspended those projects following the ban due to increasing levels insecurity.
The two Church leaders urged the international community, especially South Africa to press the government of Zimbabwe to reverse the inhumane suspension of international aid efforts and prevent the violent repression of the people.
They called the situation shocking and disastrous and were worried that the authorities had got themselves into a situation that they were finding impossible to get out of without worsening the repression. They urged the government to listen to all the religious leaders and faith-based organizations.
Cardinal Rodriguez represents 162 national Catholic charities as Caritas Internationalis President. The Cardinal said, “That food is being denied to people facing starvation is a grave evil. The government of Zimbabwe must also ensure that aid workers are able to work in a secure environment without threats of violence. The scale of the current political violence and threats is unacceptable.
"Restrictions on humanitarian workers and increasing violence severely hamper the Church in carrying out its mission to provide care and assistance to those most in need.
Archbishop Tlhagale stated that the situation in Zimbabwe no longer allowed for quiet diplomacy. “Quiet Diplomacy is not feeding people, but allowing the current structures to threaten the very survival of the extremely vulnerable.
“This situation is fast losing the Zimbabwe government and those who support it any sympathy that there might have been for their concerns. This post colonial throwback rhetoric by Zimbabwean authorities must cease – let them prove that they have the interests of ordinary Zimbabwean at heart by giving them food.”
Both Church leaders support the latest Zimbabwe bishops’ statement that called “for an immediate cessation of violence and all provocative statements and actions." The statement asked for independent monitors and observers, "throughout the country, particularly the rural areas.”
The bishops said that the "electoral processes and outcomes are not an excuse for breaching God's commandments. The sun will still rise on 28 June 2008, well after the elections. May our present conduct help Zimbabwe rise too, to assume its rightful place among the nations of the world.”
Caritas Internationalis Head of Communication Patrick Nicholson on 0039 06 69879725 or 0039 3343590700 or email@example.com
Fr Chris Townsend Information Officer Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)
P.O.Box 941 Pretoria 0001 South Africa Khanya House - 399 Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria, 0001
Tel: +27 (0)12 323 6458 Fax: +27 (0) 12 326 6218 Mobile: +27(0)82 783 4729 www.sacbc.org.za