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Bernard Mizeki festival draws 30,000 pilgrims: The Church of England Newspaper, June 27, 2014 July 22, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Zimbabwe.
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Over 30,000 Anglican pilgrims gathered in Marondera outside of Harare last weekend to commemorate the feast day of Bernard Mizeki, missionary, catechist and martyr. Born in Portuguese East Africa around 1861, as a young man Mizeki traveled to Cape Town to take service as a servant with a European family. There he attended an Anglican mission school and was baptized taking the name Bernard. After training as a catechist, he volunteered in 1891 to serve as a missionary in Mashonaland, in present day Zimbabwe. During the 1896 Mashona rebellion, Mizeki was singled out for death in reprisal for his mission work.  On June 17, Mizeki was attacked and left for dead. He crawled to a nearby hillside and after bandaging him, his wife sought aid. Returning with another woman they reported being frightened by an unearthly sound, “like many wings of great birds”, and by a dazzling light that moved toward the spot where Bernard lay. When they summoned the courage to go to the place where Bernard lay, his body had disappeared. His body was never found, and the exact site of his burial is unknown. The martyr’s feast, held on the Saturday closest to June 18, draws pilgrims from across Central and Southern Africa. The bishops of Central Zimbabwe, Masvingo, Manicaland, Northern Zambia, Eastern Zambia, Bulawayo and Harare were joined by pilgrims from South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, along with a delegation from the Diocese of Rochester in the day long services.

Anglicans return to the shrine of Bernard Mizeki: The Church of England Newspaper, June 23, 2013 p 7. June 27, 2013

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Five years after breakaway Bishop Nolbert Kunonga banned Anglicans from worshipping in the churches of the Diocese of Harare, over 25,000 pilgrims returned to the shrine of Bernard Mizeki for a two-day service in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

“The rightful people who deserve to be at this shrine are gathered here today,” The Bishop of Harare, the Rt Rev Chad Gandiya told worshippers.

“They kept us out with guns and everything but our God fought this battle on our behalf. He has brought us back to the shrine,” Dr Gandiya said, adding you “remained resolute in your support of our cause and today our efforts have been rewarded greatly.”

In 2007 Dr Kunonga broke with the Church of the Province of Central Africa and set up an Anglican church of Zimbabwe and proclaimed himself its Archbishop. Backed by the Zimbabwe security services Dr Kunonga evicted congregations from their churches if they refused to swear allegiance to him.

However last year the Zimbabwe Supreme Court issued a ruling stripping control of church properties from Dr Kunonga. After having met at the Marondera showgrounds the past five years members of the diocese were able to return to the shrine to celebrate the 14-15 June festival.

Joining Dr Gandiya were the Rt Rev Julius Makoni, Bishop of Manicaland; the Rt Rev Godfrey Tawonezvi, Bishop of Masvingo; the Rt Rev Peter Hatendi, retired Bishop of Harare; the Rt Rev Mark Van Koevering; Bishop of Niassa, Mozambique; the Rt Rev Dinis Sengulane, Bishop of Lebombo, Mozambique and the chief celebrant for the festival the Rt Rev Ismael Mukuwanda, Bishop of Central Zimbabwe.

Pilgrims from across Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique attended the festival, as did representatives from the Diocese of Rochester, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the Roman Catholic Church.

“For five years we were in exile but we told our members to employ what we coined ‘kneeology’, meaning stay on your knees and pray. That is how we won this battle,” Dr Gandiya said.

“It was not easy but we soldiered on knowing that eventually we would be fairly judged. We have waited for this day for five whole years and finally it has happened.”

Kunonga closes Mizeki shrine to Anglicans: The Church of England Newspaper, July 8, 2012 p 7. July 9, 2012

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Pilgrims attending the Bernard Mizeki festival at the Marondera fair grounds last week

The former bishop of Harare has once again blocked Anglican pilgrims from worshiping at the shrine of Bernard Mizeki.

With backing from the police, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga last month refused to allow members of the Church of the Province of Central Africa to worship at the shrine located 11 kilometers from Marondera in Zimbabwe. An estimated 30,000 Anglicans from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana gathered instead for the 22-24 June festival at the Marondera show grounds under the leadership of Archbishop Albert Chama.

One of the Central Africa church’s first native catechists, Bernard Mizeki was martyred on 18 June 1896 by Mangwende villagers in Murehwa who felt threatened by his Christian witness.

According to local press accounts of the proceeding, Archbishop Chama, Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare and other Anglican bishops urged the pilgrims to pray for the peace and integrity of Zimbabwe.

“We pray for the country’s leadership led by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. We pray for a good government that would strive to eradicate poverty and other forms of suffering. We also pray for those who continue to be abused and those who have lost their lives in the course of their religious practice, like Bernard Mizeki,” press reports from the meeting said.

On 16 June, Dr. Kunonga led members of his breakaway Anglican Church of Zimbabwe in worship at the shrine.  According to the Harare Herald, Dr. Kunonga urged his supporters to back the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Mugabe policies of evicting white farmers from the country.

“The land reform and the indigenisation programmes are not election gimmicks but matters of life, which seek to liberate the previously downtrodden Africans … Just look at what is happening in South Africa at the moment. Youths have realised they are heirs to the land and will not accept piece-meal deals” to redistribute the country’s land” he said according to the Herald, which reported 20,000 people in attendance.

However, on 22 June 2012 the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ridiculed Dr. Kunonga’s attendance claims.

“Kunonga was speaking to a few parishioners and hundreds of school children from Anglican schools who were forced to attend this year’s Bernard Mizeki commemorations in Marondera,” the MDC’s The Real Change Times said.

“Weeks before the event, Kunonga wrote to all heads of Anglican boarding schools instructing them to send schoolchildren to the event or risk unspecified action,” the newspaper said.

It went on to criticize Dr. Kunonga’s “boot-licking” of ZANU-PF.  “Kunonga’s behaviour is synonymous with that of a politician rather than a priest. Since his excommunication from the mainstream Anglican Church, the CPCA over five years ago, the so-called bishop has been persecuting his rivals, chasing them away from church properties and churches. Most of these churches are now being rented out as private schools, pre-schools” and other money-making schemes, the MDC said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.