HARARE, Zimbabwe

Hundreds of Zimbabweans from various Christian denominations held prayers May 25 for peace ahead of possible elections later this year. “We hear threats and rumors of elections, and have seen tell-tale signs of political violence raising its ugly head again,” said Dr. Goodwill Shana, chairman of the Heads of Christian Denominations, at the Zimbabwe National Day of Prayer.

“This is a cause for concern for the church, which has come together today to call upon God to bring an end to the pain and suffering. Our help is not going to come from politicians or economists. We should be united in peace and tolerance in the home, in marriages, in schools, on the streets, and among political parties,” said Shana.

The countrywide prayer meetings, with the theme “One Zimbabwe United in Faith, Hope, Love and Peace,” were called by Zimbabwe’s main Christian bodies: the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Heads of Christian Denominations, as well as a group called Intercessors for Zimbabwe.

The gathering in Harare was attended by hundreds of people, including government ministers and representatives of the main political parties.

Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections were marred by violence that claimed at least 300 lives and displaced thousands, according to rights groups, and forced political rivals Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to form a power-sharing government in 2009 to ease tensions. There have been isolated reports of violence in recent months after Mugabe announced new elections. Tsvangirai says elections should only be held when conditions are conducive to avoid more violence.

The church groups led the congregations in prayers for reconciliation and national healing, peaceful elections family reconciliation and for political leaders.

“The current political situation in our nation is of great concern to us,” Intercessors for Zimbabwe said in a statement.

“Let us continue to pray for the government of national unity. As you know the destiny of this nation is in the hands of Christians, we have a responsibility to bring the state of the nation before God,” said Rev. Levee Kadenge, leader of Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, the country’s largest functioning alliance of Christians.

“There is need to pray for our political leaders to not only think of themselves and their survival in power at the expense of the people,” Rev. Kadenge said.

“The nation is anxious. The call for elections just makes people think of the past. It does not matter whether elections take place this year or in years to come, the past experience haunts many Zimbabweans.”

“Reconciliation and healing are urgent and critical,” Rev. Max Chigwida of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches told the gathering in Harare.

The prayers came as Mugabe’s party seeks to forge closer ties with apostolic sects. Senior members of his party have appeared on state television addressing sects whose leaders have made no secret of their allegiance Mugabe’s party.