A coalition of church organizations that includes the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), of which the Christian Reformed Church in North America is a member, has congratulated the signatories of an agreement that paves the way for the sharing of power in Zimbabwe.

But at the same time, these organizations have also raised concerns about continuing violence and human rights violations.

Leaders of the World Council of Churches, the World Student Christian Federation, WARC, the World Alliance of YWCAs and the World Alliance of YMCAs congratulated both the ZANU PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change on signing the Memorandum earlier this week.

"I'm glad to see some progress on a just resolution to the dangerous situation in Zimbabwe," says Peter Vandermeulen, director of Office of Social Justice for the CRCNA.

"I'm also pleased that the CRC joined with others in bringing moral pressure to bear on the US, Canada and South Africa to act. Lets hope this is the beginning of a miracle of reconciliation in Zimbabwe... wouldn't that be great?"

In June, the Christian Reformed Church Synod 2008 passed a resolution calling for an end to the violence in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe won re-election after the opposition party pulled out of a second run-off presidential vote, citing state-sponsored violence.

In its resolution, the synod said that it noted "with growing alarm the rapidly deteriorating human security situation in Zimbabwe – particularly the sharp increase in officially sanctioned attacks on churches and the arrest of church leaders – and urges the governments of Canada and the United States to take emergency diplomatic action to resolve this crisis and avoid the violence and bloodshed that threatens to engulf Zimbabwe.”

Synod instructed the Board of Trustees to “quickly communicate this resolution to the appropriate government officials” and to church leaders in southern Africa.

The letter of congratulations send out on Thursday by the various organizations reads, “We greet the beginning of this critical round of negotiations with fervent hope for a new beginning for all Zimbabweans, restoration of peace, prosperity, dignity and the rule of law.”

However the letter also reminds the parties of the concern of churches, civil society and the people of Zimbabwe for a lasting and viable solution to the crisis. “We pray for all the negotiators so that they are guided by the best interests and deeper aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.”

The church leaders state that violence and human rights abuses continue, that millions face starvation and thousands have lost homes and property.

“We are appalled by reports of continuing violence in many parts of the country, particularly in the rural areas. All forms of violence, harassment, intimidation and torture must cease immediately in order to provide an environment truly conducive for peaceful negotiations.”

The church groups also called for a lifting of the ban that has prevented humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental organizations from working in the country.

And the church groups urged the signatories to restore faith in the Zimbabwe electoral system: “We would like to reaffirm theneed to protect the integrity of elections as the most legitimate and democratic way to express the sovereign will of the people, not only in Zimbabwe but throughout Africa.”

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) brings together 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries - united in their commitment to making a difference in a troubled world.