Church Playing Truancy in Zimbabwe
OPINION – This month, my statements focus on the Church, especially the church leadership. I wish we could transpose the events in Egypt to Zimbabwe. It wasn’t the church, but it was people whose conscience has been formed by religion.
Zimbabwe is predominantly Christian, with some notoriously more Christian than others, but what has been of Zimbabwe socially, politically and economically the years over? I am going to be further denigrated because of this statement here – as if I may perhaps be concerned. Recent statements have ended in threats to my physical self and to my profession. I have been cussed and named names, but I have survived. All this stems from what one can term a pathological manifestation of the managers of political power in Zimbabwe.
The successive governments of the republic have oppressed the citizens, trivialized human life, abused human rights, sidestepped electoral rights and subverted the police, judiciary and quashed any meaningful dialogue towards respects of the political entity and citizens. Any contention to this statement is but a blatant pretence of one who is reading history with tinted glasses on. Since the year 2000, Zimbabwe has been sinking rapidly into a social, economic and political crater.
Each passing day leads towards oblivion due to the collapse of most, if not all systems of governance in our country. Agencies observing this collapse range from political players, the civic society, the international community, down right to the ordinary citizen. All these, as stakeholders, have a duty to play in wedging Zimbabwe before it collapses entirely. One major player that has been sleeping on duty is the Church. There are several allegations to the church’s slumber, and several questions seeking answers. By way of contribution, this statement suggests a quick wake-up to the Church as a matter of urgency.
There are several questions that beg answers and such answers should come today more than tomorrow. The church has maintained a ‘quiet diplomacy’, a position that is but a betrayal of the much proclaimed adage that the church is the conscience of the society. Not to mention that the church is called to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Similarly, the Church should, like Jesus, should proudly say, “I have come that they may have life to its fullness” (John 10:10). The invisibility of the church in Zimbabwe smacks of cowardice and partisan politics. How possibly can the Church then bring her theological and spiritual resources into the social and political sphere in Zimbabwe?
The perceived task of the Church is to develop answers by combining historical, constitutional, and political analysis with systematic theological reflection. The Church out to develop programmes – arrange a series of seminars, conferences, discussion groups, articles, and books to explore how religious faith is shaping current efforts towards a new Zimbabwe. The intent and purpose is to put faith into action in a very challenging and real way. It is about responding to the Gospel call to serve those oppressed and emasculated, while questioning the reasons behind why people are in such subjection and to examine why political and social systems and structures are not in operation.
The police force has been politicized to align with one party at the expense of the security of citizens; the army that plays to the tune of certain individuals; the judicial system that has long since lost credibility; an electoral system that’s arm twisted to rig results in favour of known criminals; a government that pushes and shoves the constitution making process to suit certain personalities. There is need to challenge these systems, yet the Church has embraced the ‘quiet diplomacy’ of the former South African president. How did the Church err?
A Church that centers her mission on only one aspect of Christian life is doing injustice to the flock and to the nation. The various charismas in the church need not be divorced, rather to be juxtaposed with gifts that differ according to graces given them: those that more closely follow Christ praying, or Christ proclaiming the Kingdom of God, or Christ doing good to people, or Christ liberating the oppressed, or Christ in dialogue with the people of this world, but always Christ doing the will of the Father.
As a matter of urgency, the existing centers for religion, ethics or social teachings and culture should sponsor and support programmes that explore basic human questions of meaning, political morality, and mutual obligation. Following the historical facts that Zimbabwe has never had an election without violence, the Church need not wait until there are victims with huge gaping wounds for her to take action.
The Church thus needs to form the conscience of the electorate, political parties, the civic society and all stakeholders of the principle that faith and political ethics are partners towards democracy. Formulate ways to foster dialogue that respects political differences, and provide a forum for intellectual exchange that is interreligious as well as interdisciplinary, intercultural, and international in scope. What Zimbabwe lacks is politics of tolerance and if the Church is not going to partake in this discourse immediately, we risk losing lives, limbs, and property in another election.