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McLaughlin, an abusive nun in Rhodesia, has died at the age of 79

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Sister Ice Janice McLaughlin, a nun of the Meriknol sisters who was imprisoned and later deported by white minority-led Rhodesia for human rights abuses, has died. He was 79 years old.

In a life of social justice, McLaughlin supported the African nationalist struggle that ended Rhodesia, brought imbabwe to independence, and later contributed to the country’s education system. She worked in Africa for about 40 years, then became president of the Mericnol sisters.

Educated in Pittsburgh, McLaughlin joined Meriknol in 1961. Minority regime led by Prime Minister Ian Smith.

Working for the Catholic’s Commission on Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, McLaughlin used the church’s network across the country to detect human rights abuses, including systematic torture of rural blacks, and the forced relocation of some 600,000 to “protected villages” by Rhodesian authorities.

He said the sites were reinforced camps guarded by Rhodesian security forces, densely populated without proper sanitation or food, with more than twice as many people living there as the government admits. McLaughlin’s reports were published by the Catholic Institute of International Affairs.

In response, Rhodesian authorities arrested McLaughlin in August 1977. Accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, he was held in solitary confinement in the high-security Chicurubi prison outside the capital. He was deported three weeks later.

“The Rhodesian regime was trying to silence my work. “But the international attention to my arrest sparked a lot of interest in my reports,” McLaughlin said years later. “My articles were in small, relatively unknown publications. But after my imprisonment, all kinds of publications republished my work. As a result, many more people saw my findings. ”

After his deportation, McLaughlin worked in the Washington, D.C., Africa office of a church lobby group, informing the US public and Congress about African affairs. In 1979, he joined the Zimbabwe project, a two-year Mozambican refugee relief initiative.

After the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, McLaughlin worked with the government to establish nine schools for ex-refugees and war veterans.

McLaughlin received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Religious Imbabwe, and his dissertation was entitled “At the Front Line. Rural Catholic Missions պայքար imb imbabwe liberation struggle “, published as a book in 1995.

She was elected president of the Meriknol Sisters, and from 2009 to 2015 headed the New York City Merrinkol.

The lively and amusing McLaughlin established lasting friendships in Africa.

Retiring as president of Meriknol, he returned to imb imbabwe and continued his community development work, including efforts to end human trafficking.

McLaughlin was critical of the Zimbabwean government, particularly the alleged human rights abuses reported by the Catholic ombudsman’s Justice and Peace Commission, but he continued to be highly respected by the ruling ZANU-PF party.

At the end of 2020, he returned to Meriknol headquarters. He died there on March 7, according to a notice posted on the website. It did not cause death.

In an apocalyptic message, Zimbabwean President Emerson Mnangagwa called him a “devout Catholic for whom faith meant the pursuit of human freedom.”

“He chose to leave the otherwise quiet life of an American nun to join the harsh, dangerous camp life in the jungles of Mozambique, where he worked with our refugee education department,” Mnangagwa said, adding that his work “helped improve the international voice and spread the liberation struggle.”

The Imb Imbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association said Mnangagwa would urge McLaughlin to be declared a “national heroine”, a status usually reserved for war veterans.

“She wholeheartedly embraced our armed struggle at a time when it was impossible for a white American woman to break through the ranks and settle in Washington,” said Christopher Mutswangwa, president of the association. “We see Sister Ice Enis as an example of the unique good that Americans can offer if they choose to foster positive qualities reminiscent of their historical history, the revolutionary credentials of the 18th century.”


Associated Press writer Farai Mutsakan Hara participated in this report in Harare, Imbabwe.


Religious coverage of the Associated Press is supported by Lilly Endowment through a US talk show. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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