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Police teargas prayer meeting

There was pandemonium at the Church of the Nazarene as old women and children scrambled for the exit points after a police officer announced that “church is over now, everybody go home.”

Children screamed while youths jumped out through the windows. The police fired teargas canisters as people fled in different directions.
Some youths tried to fight back by hurling stones at the police.

MDC-T said its vice-chairperson for Harare province Shakespeare Makoyi was abducted by Zanu PF youths while attending the meeting and his whereabouts were still unknown late last night.

The church meeting had been called to pray for national peace as well as to commemorate the 2007 attack on the church by the police in Highfield where Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and heavily assaulted while in custody.

Yesterday’s service was moved from St Peters Catholic Church in Highfield after police barred people from entering the premises.

Before the police arrived at the Glen Norah church, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya had delivered a sermon imploring politicians to let the church play its role.
“We are here to pray for peace and progress in Zimbabwe,” Magaya said.

“We are praying for Zimbabwe to stop the rot of violence regardless of political affiliation.

“The role of the church is to identify with the suffering people in society.

“We are saying no to people being forced to do what they don’t want to. The church is ready to suffer for what the people are suffering, a peaceful nation.”
Jonah Gokova, the Christian Alliance treasurer expressed outrage at the arrest of Bishop  Makome and Bishop Isaiah as well as two pastors, one of them female, who had remained at the church after everybody had fled the violence.

“We are still consulting with lawyers as we are yet to establish the exact reason of the pastors’ arrests.

“There was no crime committed, people were simply praying for peace in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Gokova said they were also disappointed that police disrupted a peaceful meeting. He said hundreds of people had been expected to attend.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director, Irene Petras, who witnessed the incident, said it was unfortunate that police had attacked people inside a church.

“It seems as if the police don’t only have a problem with the freedom of assembly and expression but with the freedom of worship too,” Petras said.

She said the indiscriminate attack on the church and tactics of intimidation used by the police have no place in a democratic and peace-loving society.

“There really was no reason for them to fire teargas at people who had gathered to pray,” she said.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvu-dzijena could not be reached for comment.

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