.- President Robert Mugabe has warned the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe that they have embarked upon "a dangerous course," reported Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) after having spoken with a priest in Zimbabwe. The priest’s identity remains anonymous.
Mugabe’s warning came after the bishops issued a pastoral letter in which they lay the blame for the political and economic situation of the country on him.
According to the priest, official statistics indicate that three million people fled the country. Unofficially, he said, the figure is five million. People are leaving for Botswana, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
"There is no open resistance against the regime; the people are too afraid for that," the priest said.
The Catholic Church is trying to help with the elderly and the sick, who have been especially hard-hit by the circumstances. However, the Church urgently needs help from abroad, the priest said.
Zimbabweans trust the Catholic Church, and the churches are full, he stated. On Fridays there are regular prayers and fasting campaigns for the country.
However, the state is accusing the Church of being responsible for the suffering in Zimbabwe. Some foreign priests and religious have been refused renewal of their residence and work permits. The state is drastically restricting the aid campaigns of the Catholic Church. Economic sanctions are hitting the poorest people very hard.
"Inflation has now reached between 2,200 percent and 3,000 percent, while unemployment stands at around 80 percent. Five months ago, I paid 11,000 Zimbabwe dollars for a chicken; a month ago they cost 50,000 and now they cost more than 100,000. People are dying of malnourishment," the priest told ACN.
One of the biggest problems is the state-controlled news media, the priest added.
"The Catholic Church can support us if she can provide us with accurate information about the situation in the country," the priest said. "The people need food and medicine in order to survive; otherwise more and more people will die.
"The Church continues to help as well as she can. But now she must tell people in her own country and in the world about the true extent of the crisis," he reportedly said.