Dr Rowan Williams, the head of worldwide Anglican Communion, yesterday presented Mr Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe with a dossier of alleged abuses against Anglicans in Zimbabwe.
The disagreement was expressed clearly but peacefully in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city.
Dr Williams, alongside the Archbishops of Central Africa and Southern Africa and the president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Archbishop of Tanzania, presented Mr Mugabe with the dossier of complaints about the treatment of Anglicans.
The Church leaders are angry that services have been broken up and Anglicans intimidated in what they regard as a state-sponsored campaign against the church.
The Archbishops said in a statement, “They’ve been intimidated, their churches have been closed, properties including schools, clinics and orphanages have been seized.”
“We want strongly and unequivocally to support the efforts of ordinary Anglicans here to worship in peace and to minister – as they have done for so many years – to the urgent spiritual and material needs of their communities.”
The Mugabe regime was accused of “greed and violence” to a congregation of more than 10,000 at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday. “This has been a time of immense trial,” the Archbishops said in a statement after the meeting.
“Since 2007, Anglican congregations in Zimbabwe have suffered serious persecution at the hands of the police. They have been intimidated. Their churches have been closed. Properties, including schools and clinics, have been seized.
“Today we were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by the Bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church has been subject.
“We have asked, in the clearest possible terms, that the President use his powers as Head of State to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behavior.”
Mr Mugabe’s response is awaited but before the meeting he had made it clear he would subject the Archbishop to a grilling on the church’s silence on Western sanctions against Zimbabwe and his attitude towards homosexuality.
After the meeting, Dr Williams said Mr Mugabe had not said anything “greatly surprising” on Britain. “I was aware of his views on Great Britain’s relationships with Zimbabwe in the last couple of decades.”
The archbishop said raising the issue of homosexuality was a complete distraction – “throwing sand in the air”.
Britain’s relationship with Zimbabwe and EU sanctions were also discussed.