BISHOP Donal Lamont of Umtali said last week that he expected to be back in his diocese in Rhodesia within two years, and that he would return to Rhodesia as soon as the political situation allowed. In the meantime he intends to work for peace in all forms and to become involved in ecumenical work.
By Alex Cosgrave
"I am still the Bishop of Umtali, an apostolic administrator has been installed but I am still bishop of the diocese although I am in exile, and it will be my duty to return to Rhodesia as soon as possible," he said.
Bishop Lamont was deported from Rhodesia at the end of March after being convicted by a Rhodesian court of failing to report the presence of nationalist guerrillas at a mission station in his diocese, which is close to the border with Mozambique.
"What a lot of people do not realise, and what the press will not admit is that a great deal of the country can now be described as occupied Zimbabwe," he said.
"There are now whole areas of not only infiltration but almost occupation by the nationalists, which points very clearly to the government no longer being in effective control of certain areas.
"The so-called security forces can make raids into such areas as tribal trust lands where they hear there has been guerrilla activity, but then they move out again.
"They cannot remain in permanent control and there is no protection for missionaries or anyone else, certainly not from the security forces, who have behaved very badly."
Bishop Lamont sees the charges brought against himself and other missionaries such as Fr Egli and Fr Lynch as an embarrassment to the Rhodesian government. "Instead of picking out missionaries and charging them for not reporting the presence of nationalist guerrillas, the government should have picked out the many European farmers who are paying protection money to the guerrillas while at the same time voting for the Smith government. I understand that this practice is widespread but then people do not like to hear about that sort of thing."
Bishop Lamont feels strongly that the British Government must now accept its full responsibility for Rhodesia if a bloody clash is to he averted.
However, it is also important to remember he said, that the four main African leaders, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Mr Joshua Nkomo, Mr Robert Mugabe and Mr Sithole are committed Christians.
"It is up to the church to keep these leaders within the Bishop Lamont: working for peace...
fold by manifesting its concern for social justice," he said.
Bishop Lamont's two years of exile are likely to pass quickly. He has speaking engagements planned in Birmingham, Bonn, Paris, New York and Montreal; press conferences to launch his new book, Speech From The Dock shortly to be published by Kevin Mayhew, and an honorary degree in law to collect in America from Notre Dame University on the same day that President Carter receives a similar degree and makes an important speech on human rights.