HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwean police stopped a retreat of 80 clergy over claims that their prayer gathering was not given police clearance under sweeping security laws, the country’s mainstream Anglican church said Tuesday.
Zimbabwe’s Anglican church has been split by a breakaway group led by a bishop close to the president, who has seized church properties without police intervention. The bishop has been excommunicated by world Anglicans.
The Diocese of Harare said in a statement that police ordered them to disperse Monday from the Peterhouse private school but they refused, denying any wrongdoing and insisting police remove them by force.
The mainstream Diocese of Harare said in a statement that police loyal to Bishop Nolbert Kunonga returned Tuesday to the school 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of the capital and were in a standoff, demanding the clerics, including two bishops, leave the school grounds.
“We deplore this action and call upon higher authorities to intervene. So much for freedom of religion,” the head of the mainstream Anglicans, Bishop Chad Gandiya, said in the statement.
The boarding school is not linked to the church but allows Christian and other groups to use its facilities during vacations.
The police action marked the beginning of “another year of persecution at the hands of a hostile police force” and was a clear indication of the allegiance of police to Kunonga, the statement said.
The 80 clerics headed by Gandiya and Bishop Julius Makoni, the bishop of the eastern city of Mutare, represented the church in Harare and eastern Zimbabwe for their annual New Year’s retreat.
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