By BosNewsLife Africa Service
HARARE, ZIMBABWE (BosNewsLife)-- Aid workers expressed alarm Friday, November 17, about the plight of "hungry Christians" in Zimbabwe after the military staged a takeover amid growing pressure on President Robert Mugabe to resign.
Barnabas Fund, a Christian aid-and-advocacy group, is rushing to raise funds to help "poor and needy Christians through the Zimbabwean churches" including church leaders facing persecution. "The Church in Zimbabwe plays a major role in society, and has therefore been one of the targets of government harassment and persecution," Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife. "Many courageous pastors and ministers have taken a stand for justice and righteousness, risking arrest, imprisonment or worse," added the group without elaborating.
Barnabas Fund said it is increasing aid "for the neediest" in cooperation with local Zimbabwean churches and other organizations. "We feed hungry Christians, increasing our support at times of major food crisis, for example, hyperinflation and drought," it explained. "We have provided up to a million meals a month, that is 70 tonnes of food aid monthly, focusing always on the most vulnerable. A special concern is the elderly, including care home residents."
The aid came while regional branches of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF joined growing calls for President Mugabe to step down ahead of a protest march in the capital Harare this weekend. Zimbabwe's army, which has ruled the nation since Wednesday, November 16, support Saturday's demonstration.
"Zimbabwe lies under military rule today after the surprise 'coup'...no one knows what the future holds," Barnabas Fund noted. It said that some Christians "dare to hope for an end to the long years of suffering, but others fear it will be a case of new leadership and old problems."
War veterans until recently loyal to the 93-year-old president and liberal groups have also urged him to quit. Mugabe had been under house arrest for days, but attended a graduation ceremony Friday, November 18, handing out degrees.
The army made its move after a power struggle over his successor. Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, apparently to pave the way for his wife Grace Mugabe - who is four decades younger than him -to take over the presidency instead.
The military said it was "engaging" with Mugabe and would advise the public on the outcome of talks "as soon as possible."
Amid the uncertainty, Barnabas Fund urged supporters to "help poor and needy Christians through the Zimbabwean churches."
Additionally, Christians were encouraged to back "a longer-term solution to hunger [as] we are funding a grassroots Christian programme to train subsistence farmers in a simple, cheap and sustainable farming method, which greatly increases yields," Barnabas Fund stressed.
It said a gift to its Zimbabwe General Fund would support these and other projects "which feed and build up believers in Zimbabwe."
Three-quarters of the population of Zimbabwe, including many Christians, live below the poverty line, according to Christian aid-workers. Four-fifths reportedly subsist on the food they grow themselves. "All have endured decades of repressive rule, and recurrent drought," Barnabas Fund explained.