Pastors arrested and released in Zimbabwe

By June 19, 2007

Zimbabwe (MNN/SVM) — Three pastors were arrested in Masvingo in Zimbabwe by the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) on Sunday, June 10, for distributing toys and candy to children.

Rev. Sonykis Chimbuya, Pastor Peter Bondai, and Pastor Mugondi were detained and questioned by state security agents.

According to Salem Voice Ministries, in a bizarre case highlighting deep levels of paranoia in government, the agents of the Central Intelligence Organization accused the pastors of distributing campaign material for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which is Zimbabwe's biggest opposition party.

Pastor Peter Bondai and Mugondi were released after they were interrogated for more than three hours, while Pastor Chimbuya was kidnapped and dumped along the Masvingo-Great Zimbabwe highway hours after his arrest.

"We are living in constant fear after the harassment at the hands of the CIO agents," Rev. Sonykis Chimbuya to SVIM news.

"They just came to us and picked us one after the other. They asked us about the material we were distributing to various church organizations," they reported.

"One of us was kidnapped and was only released after they had proved beyond doubt that the items we were distributing were in fact toys," They added.

The CIO agents also demanded that the pastors write down their sermons and present them to the secret agents before delivery.

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa could not be reached for comment on the matter.

President Robert Mugabe last month warned church leaders to steer clear of politics after Catholic bishops denounced the Zimbabwean government over its human rights record.

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