by a Special Correspondent
THE Church-State conflict in Rhodesia. which hal been brewing since the adoption of the Smith regime's white-supremacy constitution in 1969, is coming to the boil. On Monday the country's Christian leaders will meet to discuss the Land Tenure Act, which was recently condemned by the Catholic bishops.
Altho ugh overwhelmingly victorious in the April 10 parliamentary elections, Mr. Ian Smith's regime now faces a collision with the country's Christian leaders over its racial policies and its plan to reduce State assistance to primary education for black Africans.
Smith's Rhodesian Front Party, which was decisively returned to power in the election, has been in control since 1962. It unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965.
Although race was not the only issue in the election campaign. it was an overriding factor. It has come to permeate almost every aspect of Rhodesian life and dominated the campaign. The churches have not escaped the backwash of the racial trends.
The sharpest division be
tween the Government and the churches has centred on the Rhodesian Catholic bishops' series of criticisms of the Government's racial policies. But other Christian denominations have supported the bishops' criticisms.
Anglican support The Catholic bishops' strongest criticism was contained in a recent pastoral letter entitled "A Crisis of Conscience," in which they announced defiance of the Government's efforts to force Church support for its racial segregation measures.
Three days before the elections the bishops distributed a 56-page booklet on "The Land Tenure Act and the Church" to inform Rhodesian Catholics on the implications for the Church contained in the land legislation. The booklet amplified the pastoral letter.
The Land Tenure Act which divides the country geographically between whites and blacks—gives 44.9 million acres to about 250,000 whites and 45.2 million acres to about 5 million black Africans. The land destined for whites includes all the cities, towns. factories and highways.
The pastoral letter was hailed by the Rt. Rev. Paul Burrough, Anglican Bishop of Mashonaland, as "a brave statement." The Rt. Rev. Kenneth Skelton, Anglican Bishop of Matebeleland, said a point of no return had been reached between Church and State.
"If our nation's rulers pursue a policy which is at variance with our belief in God we have no choice but to resist," he said. "Justice is more important than law and order and can sometimes be incompatible with it" Salary cuts Catholic, Methodist and Dutch Reformed have -decided to close their primary schools in black African areas if the Government persists in decreasing State assistance. Under its plan, the Government intends to reduce salary payments to teachers in African primary schools by five per cent as from January 1, 1971.
The Catholic bishops earlier protested against the plan and said that if it were carried out, it would mean the closing of their primary schools for black Africans because the balance of teachers' wages could not be met by parents and the Church does not have means of compensation.
The bishops also said they will not act as tax collectors for the Government in an effort to raise funds from parents to supplement the reduced teachers' salaries.
But the Land Tenure Act has been the chief target of the Catholic bishops and other church leaders.
The Act gives wide powers to the Minister of Lands. A white missionary will have to obtain a permit from the Minister in order to work among black Africans in their areas. Church private schools may not admit African children without permission. Mission hospitals in black areas may not admit a white missionary for treatment.
Black priests and white priests as well as white and black nuns belonging to the same religious order may not live together.
The bishops' booklet charges that the Government has entrenched separation and discrimination. It said that "the Catholic Church cannot in principle and will not in practice divide itself racially for the administrative convenience of any State anywhere in the world."
Fr. Richard Randall, S.J., a Catholic spokesman who has made a special study of the Land Act and its effect on the Church, said the bishops' defiance can be serious in view of the consequences.
Failure to comply with the law could result in the Church losing its mission lands. and
black Africans living on them could be evicted as squatters and the land itself expropriated.
The Church has 150,000 acres of mission land, 100,000 of them leased to black tenants. The tenant families include 12,000 persons and there are more than 7,000 children in the mission schools. Despite this, the bishops said they will defy the authorities if they try to implement their "un-Christian laws." Fr. Anthony Traber, the Swiss priest who edited the Oathohc 'paper Moto, 'became one of the few voices for African opinion 'in Rhodesia and was expelled last month, is now in London hoping to see Mr. Maurice Foley, Joint Parliamentary Undet-Secretary of State for Foreign and Cornmonwealth Affairs, who is closely associated with the problem of Rhodesia.