THE initiative by various church leaders in Masvingo to convene an inter-denominational meeting to promote a violence-free environment ahead of next month’s general elections is a noble cause that must be emulated by all peace-loving citizens yearning for credible elections this time around.

While President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been at the forefront of the peace crusade as he traverses the length and breadth of the country to gain legitimacy and give traction to his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra, the entry of the men and women of the cloth into the foray gives divine blessing to a violence-free campaign which the country desperately needs to parade to the world that 38 years after independence, Zimbabweans have now gained political maturity.

We might have taken so long to reach the promised land, but now that we are nearly there, it necessitates calls for extra vigilance lest the gains of ushering in a new dispensation in the form of Mnangagwa’s government be eroded by needless loss of lives.

No man, woman or party running for political office is worth killing or maiming for, and the message from the weekend meeting in Masvingo needs to cascade to all parts of the country.

We have witnessed in the past how some church leaders have abandoned their calling and openly dabbled in “matters of the world” by aligning themselves with political parties, a move which not only questions their motives, but goes against the basic tenets of the Holy Book in spreading the gospel of love, peace and tolerance.

The big question that arises is how would the leaders of such churches stand in front of their congregations if their candidates lose the upcoming polls?

The white collar and gowns that pastors and reverends adorn come with a greater responsibility to be messengers of peace and love.

With the events of the blood-drenched 2008 elections still fresh in the minds of most voters, the clergy’s initiative could be the right tonic to ease political tension in the run-up to the July 30 elections.

Further afield in Rwanda, the Catholic Church, in a major climb-down after 20 years, had to apologise for its role in the genocide that brutally claimed the lives of more than

800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

By their nature, churches can be used and abused by politicians as they engage in a dog eat dog fight for power. With some denominations commanding thousands of congregants week in week out, they are prone to be manipulated politicians, a move that they must fiercely resist.

Now is the time for all denominations to preach the peace gospel so that the great nation of Zimbabwe can rise from being a near failed state to be the bread basket of Africa again

A disputed poll is something that Zimbabwe can hardly afford this time around, as we need all hands on the deck to make up for the 38 years of lurching from one crisis to another.

We have been fire-fighting for ages now, and now it’s time to enjoy the proverbial green grass on the other side.