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Zimbabwe, the Church, and Justice – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
May 072007
 

The country of Zimbabwe and its Christian leaders need our prayers. In High-Stakes Protest Brenda Lane gives a succint description of what has been happening in Zimbabewe:

Zimbabwe’s economy has crumbled since Mugabe, 83, took over following the end of white-supremacist rule in 1980. Inflation runs 1,593 percent annually, and unemployment tops 80 percent. Nearly two years ago, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina (“Take Out the Trash”), during which the government bulldozed homes he said were built illegally. Thousands of victims remain homeless.

In response nine Catholic bishops signed an open letter to President Mugabe pointing out that nothing had changed since the Rhodesian white regime was overthrown: a few wealthy people still control all the money and power and are determined to remain in power. The only difference now is that the few are black and not white. The letter urges the president to make needed economic changes that would give his people jobs and houses. It urges him to trust a democratic process and let the people govern themselves. Here are excerpts from the letter from Mugabe Threatens Zimbabwe’s Bishops:

The present crisis in our country has its roots deep in colonial society. Despite the rhetoric of a glorious socialist revolution brought about by the armed struggle, the colonial structures and institutions of pre-independent Zimbabwe continue to persist in our society. None of the unjust and oppressive security laws of the Rhodesian State have been repealed; in fact, they have been reinforced by even more repressive legislation …

Why was this done? Because soon after independence, the power and wealth of the tiny white Rhodesian elite was appropriated by an equally exclusive black elite, some of whom have governed the country for the past 27 years through political patronage. Black Zimbabweans today fight for the same basic rights they fought for during the liberation struggle. It is the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in abundance, and those who do not; … between those who only know the language of violence and intimidation, and those who feel they have nothing more to lose because their Constitutional rights have been abrogated and their votes rigged. Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt in one township after another….

The God of the Bible is always on the side of the oppressed. He does not reconcile Moses and Pharaoh, or the Hebrew slaves with their Egyptian oppressors. Oppression is sin and cannot be compromised with. It must be overcome. God takes sides with the oppressed. As we read in Psalm 103:6: “God who does what is right, is always on the side of the oppressed”. …

We conclude our pastoral letter by affirming with a clear and unambiguous “yes” our support of morally legitimate political authority. At the same time we say an equally clear and unambiguous “no” to power through violence, oppression and intimidation. We call on those who are responsible for the current crisis in our country to repent and listen to the cry of their citizens. To the people of Zimbabwe we appeal for peace and restraint when expressing their justified grievances and demonstrating for their human rights.

As the title of the article says Mugabe’s response was to threaten the bishops. He says that the bishops are no longer spiritual leaders but political and will be treated as political entities. Already no group larger than three people can get together and talk in Zimbabwe without seeking police approval. Even people talking while having dinner have been broken up by the police on suspicion of political dissent. This means churches are not allowed to legally gather, but Christians still gather to worship and pray, knowing that they could be arrested. Several Christians have been arrested and beaten for breaking the law.

The bishop’s letter concluded with this prayer. Please join our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe as they pray:

God Our Father,
You have given all peoples one common origin,
And your will is to gather them as one family in yourself.
Give compassion to our leaders, integrity to our citizens, and repentance to us all.
Fill the hearts of all women and men with your love
And the desire to ensure justice for all their brothers and sisters.
By sharing the good things you give us
May we ensure justice and equality for every human being,
An end to all division, and a human society built on love,
Lasting prosperity and peace for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Sources:

High-Stakes Protest from ChristianityToday.com

From God’s Politics:

Mugabe Threatens Zimbabwe’s Bishops

Where Is Christ in Zimbabwe’s Crisis

“The Passion of Christ” in Zimbabwe’s Context

The picture is Farid De La Ossa Arrieta’s “Church vs. Non-Diversity” found at Boheme Galleries.

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  2 Responses to “Zimbabwe, the Church, and Justice”

  1. excellent post Shawana- thank you for raising this issue.

  2. Yes, I am an outsider and have many friends living in Zimbabwe. I regularly hear from them and the fear of death is most common in their correspondence with me. I just can not understand why a country so great as South Africa is supporting the current despot and regime and turning it’s eyes away from the suffering? Is South Africa doing the same thing now that it’s own ANC freedom fighters were fighting against for decades? I am so saddened that South Africa is ignoring the screams of freedom fighters and starving children in Zimbabwe. How much blood needs to be spilled before the South African government starts to act as a real world leader and is willing to practice what it preaches? What is it afraid of? Maybe, I am naive and I just don’t understand but someone like President Mbeki must be getting his Swiss bank accounts filled or South Africans just don’t care.

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