ROME, JUNE 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Quiet diplomacy has been offered as the solution to the Zimbabwe crisis by its neighbors' leaders, but quiet diplomacy is not feeding the people, lamented Church officials.
In a joint statement today, the presidents of Caritas Internationalis and the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference warned that Zimbabwe's suspension last week of international aid activities, coupled with its spiraling political violence, means millions of people are suffering.
Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez and Archbishop Buti Tlhagale called on the international community, especially South Africa, to press the government of Zimbabwe to reverse the suspension of international aid efforts and stop the violent repression of the people.
Caritas is one of the groups suspended by a government ban instated last week on foreign aid workers, supposedly because the aid organizations have lent support to the opposition party competing for the presidency in the June 27 runoff election.
Caritas members were directly feeding over 1 million people in Zimbabwe, and their projects helped some 3 million more.
The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported today that some half million Zimbabwean children are no longer getting the treatment and food they need since the government ban.
As an example of the new policy, according to the Associated Press, a 20-ton shipment of U.S.-donated grain, beans and oil headed to a school in eastern Zimbabwe was taken over and then distributed to supporters of President Robert Mugabe at a rally last week.
Let them eat
The statement from Cardinal Rodríguez and Archbishop Tlhagale called the situation "shocking and disastrous."
The cardinal said: "That food is being denied to people facing starvation is a grave evil. The government of Zimbabwe must also ensure that aid workers are able to work in a secure environment without threats of violence. The scale of the current political violence and threats is unacceptable.
"Restrictions on humanitarian workers and increasing violence severely hamper the Church in carrying out its mission to provide care and assistance to those most in need."
Archbishop Tlhagale stated that the situation in Zimbabwe no longer allowed for mere diplomacy: "Quiet diplomacy is not feeding people, but allowing the current structures to threaten the very survival of the extremely vulnerable.
"This situation is fast losing the Zimbabwe government and those who support it any sympathy that there might have been for their concerns. This post colonial throwback rhetoric by Zimbabwean authorities must cease. Let them prove that they have the interests of ordinary Zimbabwean at heart by giving them food."