The Church of Scotland has refused to condemn the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, as it fears that could result in Christians living there being persecuted.
The admission came during the first day of the Church’s General Assembly this week, after the World Mission Council (WMC) was criticised from the floor for failing to discuss adequately in its annual report the situation there.
The Church’s convener, Rev Colin Renwick, said: “We're very conscious that anything coming from the British government is not particularly well received. We’re also very conscious that sometimes when assemblies make damning criticisms of governments, they do so believing that they are doing the right thing. This doesn’t always help the churches on the ground in the area concerned, and sometimes, in fact, it can inflame a situation even further. So, we walk a fine line, showing solidarity with our partner churches but not making the kind of statements that can complicate a situation.”
The Scottish representative of the National Secular Society, Alistair McBay comments: “In 1998, the Roman Catholic Robert Mugabe addressed member churches of the World Council of Churches at its 8th assembly in Harare.
Addressing them as “Brothers in Christ”, he told them, apparently with no hint of irony, that global order belonged to the “strong” and the “heartless” in a world dominated “by bullies.”
He then asked where was the conscience of the international community which allowed so much suffering in poor nations because of controllable factors. ‘Where are men and women of prophetic witness, our seers and our moral and spiritual liberators?’ he asked, challenging the WCC to ‘lead in calling the world back to sane and human goals that edify God’s image.’ “
Well, he won’t be searching for them in the Church of Scotland.
Yet a spokesman for the WMC went on to praise the Catholic bishops’ courage in taking a stand on the matter last month, apparently unaware of the fact that their stance would already have put Christians in the firing line if Mugabe so chose.
“No Scot, whether believer or atheist, should let Mugabe get away with his brutality. The Church’s stand has been described as pathetic, cowardly and shameful, and rightly so. The Christian ‘conscience’, much vaunted during the S.O.Rs debate but mysteriously absent when dealing with priestly child abusers, has gone awol in Scotland too, it seems.”
And as one contributor to the Scotsman’s message board wrote: “This is the same excuse the Roman Catholic Church used when facing Hitler. It is the duty of every Christian, wherever they are to stand up against such a regime, no matter the cost. Indeed, it is the duty of every civilised human being to do the same. Typical Religion. Yes you are walking a fine line - it is called ‘the fence’. What is the saying? Evil happens when good people do nothing?”
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