Archbishop Rowan Williams has long expressed concern about the persecution of Anglicans by security forces in Zimbabwe, warning in his Christmas sermon last year that they suffered harrassment, beatings, arrests and lockouts from their churches.
“The aim of the trip as a whole is a pastoral visit and it’s to show solidarity with Anglicans there,” a spokeswoman for the archbishop said.
She added that recent incidents of persecution, including the reported arrest this week of a prominent Harare priest, Julius Zimbudzana, were “more of a reason to go because people need more pastoral care”.
Williams would also visit Malawi and Zambia during the trip, she said.
Chad Gandiya, bishop of Harare, told The Times newspaper that he hoped the archbishop’s visit would bring respite to the church in Zimbabwe, although he added that it was thriving in terms of attendance.
“I often think, where are all these people coming from. Sometimes I ask them if they know what they are committing themselves to. They are totally committed to God,” the bishop said.
The second most senior Anglican in Britain, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, cut up his dog collar in 2007 in protest against Mugabe and said he would not replace it until the Zimbabwean president was out of office.