.- Zimbabwe’s nine Roman Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter on Easter Sunday that calls on President Robert Mugabe to end oppression and to leave office or face a mass revolt.
"The confrontation in our country has now reached a flashpoint," said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference in their pastoral message, titled “God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed.” It was pinned up on Sunday at churches throughout the country.
"As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture," the letter reads.
"Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt in one township after another," said the bishops. "In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising, the nation needs a new people-driven constitution that will guide a democratic leadership chosen in free and fair elections."
"Oppression is sin and cannot be compromised with," reads the letter, which likens human and democratic rights abuses under Mugabe to the oppression of biblical pharaohs and Egyptian slave masters.
The current conflict in Zimbabwe pits those determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth, even at the cost of bloodshed, against those demanding democratic rights, the letter reads.
"The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony," said the bishops. "A tiny minority of the people have become very rich overnight, while the majority are languishing in poverty. ... Our country is in deep crisis."
"God is on your side,” the bishops told the people. “He always hears the cry of the poor and oppressed and saves them."
Even Pope Benedict XVI singled out Zimbabwe among other troubled countries in his Easter message, saying: "Zimbabwe is in the grip of a grievous crisis."
There was no response from the government Sunday to the pastoral letter and Mugabe was out of the country, reported The Associated Press.
The bishops called for a day of prayer and fasting for Zimbabwe April 14 and said there would be a prayer service for Zimbabwe every week after that.
The majority of Zimbabwe's Christians, including Mugabe, are Roman Catholic.