A group of African children holding a sign commemorating the Day of the African child in Kenya.

In June 2017, more than 500 people gathered to commemorate the Day of the African Child in Nairobi, Kenya, and to speak up publicly for the rights of children and adolescents living with HIV.


“We condemn the rape, abuse, and neglect of this child in the strongest possible terms leading to her death,” reads a statement from AACC general secretary Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki. “It is especially ab-horrent that this illegal and inhumane child marriage was effected under cover of a misleading faith purporting to be Christian.”

The AACC and the WCC extended condolences and prayers to the child’s family. 

“We implore the government of Zimbabwe, and those of other African countries, to fulfil their constitu-tional duty of protecting girls and women in our societies, boldly enforcing existing laws designed to ensure this protection,” said Mwombeki.

He also called on churches in Zimbabwe to clearly disown heretical denominations which support such evils in the name of faith. "It is time for churches in Africa to prophetically lead efforts to ensure justice in our respective countries,” Mwombeki said. “We all owe it to the girls and women of Zimbabwe and Africa.”

Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, supported Mwombeki’s condemnation of child marriages.  “This sad occasion is a reminder to all churches to protect the girl child from early marriage which is institutionalised rape,” said Phiri. “Every child has a right to life in fullness. Poverty in families should not be an excuse to encourage the institutionalised raping of children.”

Comments by WCC programme experts

WCC programme experts commented on the tragic death, and on the imperative to invest in and protect children. 

Dr Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, WCC programme executive for programmatic responses on overcoming rac-ism, said that the case of Memory Machaya has brought into the spotlight the evil of child marriages, not only in Zimbabwe but across the African continent. “It is a sign of our times and I fully share with AACC that we cannot let a sign of our time pass by without us being involved,” said Gunda. “Child marriage is an evil because it denies children a divinely ordained path from childhood to adulthood. This case demands a critical self-examination by churches: what are we doing to safeguard our children against abuse within our faith communities, in our institutions of learning and beyond?” 

Rev Dr, Nyambura Njoroge, WCC programme executive for the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme, observes that “the Christian sacrament of baptism (or blessing of children in some churches) is a consistent reminder that God values and loves all children and Christian communities of faith have an obligation to nurture and protect them from all harm and misleading teachings.”

Prof. Ezra Chitando, WCC regional coordinator for Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy in Southern Africa, said during a TV discussion in Zimbabwe on 15 August that justice delayed is justice denied. “No amount of political calculation must be allowed to deny justice for Memory Machaya,” said Chitando. “Our memory of Memory must see us mobilising churches and civil society groups to invest in our children, whose lives are sacrificed at the altar of patriarchal interests couched in religious garments.”

WCC's work with children