Zimbabwe: Catholic Charities Worried As Thousands Face Death


17 June 2008 Rome - 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.

The president of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, and Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference said in a joint statement Friday 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. The network of Catholic charities has suspended those projects following the ban due to increasing levels of 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 urged the government to listen to all the religious leaders and faith-based organizations.

"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," said Cardinal Rodriguez.

"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 the people, but allowing the current structures to threaten the very survival of the extremely vulnerable."
Both Church leaders supported the latest Zimbabwean 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."