The Archbishop of York yesterday pledged not to wear his dog collar until Robert Mugabe leaves power in Zimbabwe.
In a dramatic intervention, John Sentamu - the former Bishop for Birmingham - removed and cut up the symbol of his office during an interview on BBC1's Andrew Marr show. He insisted the action represented the way that President Mugabe had been "destroying the identities" of the Zimbabwean people through oppression and economic mismanagement.
Speaking as Mugabe was still controversially attending the EU-African summit in Lisbon, Mr Sentamu criticised South Africa for not acting over the deteriorating situation. "South Africa has got actually to wake up to the fact that people there are starving," he insisted. Taking out his dog collar, Mr Sentamu went on: "You know that identities are destroyed. As an Anglican, this is what I wear to identify myself that I am a clergyman.
"Do you know what Mugabe has done? He has taken people's identity and literally - if you don't mind - cut it to pieces."
Mr Sentamu added: "As far as I am concerned, from now on I am not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone."
Mr Sentamu urged those who had been moved by his gesture to "pray, march, protest and collect money" for Zimbabwe and Darfur.
Aides said they had received dozens of supportive calls since the protest, but stressed that it had been a personal action by the Archbishop and he did not expect other clergy to follow his example.
The Archbishop's spokesman said that Mr Sentamu would continue with all his official engagements.
He added: "He will basically go with the top of his shirt undone."
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "It was a good gesture, but he needs to back it up by denouncing Anglican leaders inside Zimbabwe who back Mugabe and his tyrannical regime.
"It's absolutely shameful the way in which some of these leaders have been rewarded for their complicity with Mugabe's human rights abuses by being given farms that were not lawfully theirs. Sentamu should have been pressing the Portugese government to arrest Mugabe when he was in Lisbon for the EU African summit."