[Associated Press] The Revd Richard Johnson has closed his church in Arcturus, 20 miles from Harare. No Easter services will be held at the simple whitewashed building because of attacks and threats from gangs who claim loyalty to Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe.
"It is such a beautiful setting," said Fr Johnson, standing in front of his church on Good Friday, "that it is hard to believe that evil is happening all around. This is the day Jesus was crucified. That is what is happening to this country."
The church has been looted and desecrated repeatedly, with office furniture stolen, the vestry carpet ripped out, and the collection plate taken. Parish worker, Joel Tendaupeny, was beaten up by a gang who threatened to kill him. One of the Sunday School teachers was threatened that her house would be burnt down. A local farmer has been driven from his land, and workers have been attacked, maimed and had their houses razed to the ground.
Richard Johnson, whose family come from the English Lake District, said that the situation had left him with no choice but to cancel services and leave the church standing empty.
"It is a great sadness because people want to go to church but that is just not possible in these circumstances," he said. "We must remember that evil did not triumph on Good Friday. Christ rose again and we must look forward for Easter Day for Zimbabwe."