A Pastoral Letter to the Nation
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC)
December 20, 2012
THEME: Work for Peace In Zimbabwe: Pray for It! Speak It! Spread It! Do It! (Isaiah 60:1-22)
In our October 2009 Pastoral Letter to the nation, a nation that was still struggling to emerge from a protracted period of crisis, we acknowledged the promising positive national developments that we anticipated following the signing of the Interparty Agreement, also known as the Global Political Agreement (GPA) on September 15th 2008. Such prospects had arisen out of such positive developments as the setting up of an inclusive Government (GNU) in February of 2009, upon which the once warring major political parties agreed to work together to get Zimbabwe on her feet again. We applauded the process because it held such positive prospects as peaceful co-existence, economic recovery, national healing and reconciliation, and constitutional reform.
Background to the GPA and GNU
When the three political parties signed the GPA they committed themselves to putting the people of Zimbabwe first, ahead of their own personal political interests. We as the Church commended them for taking such steps which brought about relative stability in the nation. The Global Political Agreement had an encouraging and positive focus which included:
- Demonstration of respect to the rule of law and democratic values and processes.
- Building a society free of violence and hatred.
- Respecting the rights of all citizens and giving the necessary freedoms or liberties of a free people.
- Founding a society governed on principles of peace, openness and dignity for all.
- Recognizing the values of justice and fairness to all.
- Giving the people a genuine chance to rebuild their livelihoods and nation through reforms, and above all, respecting all people - as the bedrock of democracy and good governance.
Today, as we draw to the end of 2012, three years after setting such an agenda, it is time for us to reflect on whether or not those promises were fulfilled, and ask, “If not, why?”. It is time “to take stock”, and make sure we make wise decisions when the time comes for voting for both the Constitution/draft and the next Parliament and Government.
Over the past three years, we noted with great concern that the processes agreed to in the GPA were being grossly hampered by a number of factors that included:
- The apparent lack of political will to fully implement the Global Political Agreement which they had signed.
- The delays, uncertainty and general lack of transparency in constitutional, media, and other reforms
- The limitations of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) and the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) in respectively, monitoring the implementation of both the GPA and spearheading the national healing process.
- The continued biased reporting by sections of the media, both public and private, and the continued harassment and arrests of media personnel, human rights and political activists.
- Hate speech in political and media circles.
- Contradictory policy pronouncements in government.
We warned then that this general uncertainty would not only cause immense anxiety among the people, but would also erode both investor confidence and our people’s confidence in their political leadership. That prophecy has indeed come to pass, as we are witnessing uncertainty, fear and lack of confidence in some parts of the country, three years after the signing of the GPA.
Our mission and mandate
This pastoral letter is borne out of our compelling mission as the Shepherds of God’s flock. It is a mission that derives its legitimacy from God Himself as manifested in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd and eternal Head of the Church. We have a God given Biblical and theological mandate to guide the nation and all leaders in making God’s voice to be heard at particular times when He chooses to speak to His people on issues of justice, peace, reconciliation, poverty and the liberation of the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). As the custodians and facilitators of God’s mission, we are obliged to “stand up and proclaim” the will of God, whenever His people are faced with difficult situations that seem to deny them fullness of life (John 10:10). In the same way we applaud and encourage positive actions and developments. We continue to do so as in conformity with our calling through preaching the Gospel of truth, justice, peace and love as entrusted to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today the nation of Zimbabwe is at a cross-roads; a decisive moment, commonly called KAIROS in theological terms, when God’s people are faced with making life-changing choices as they seek God’s guidance. It is similar to what confronted the nation of Israel at the sight of the Red Sea during Moses’ leadership. Moses led the people to consult God’s plan and purposes for them, and the times we face today do require the Church to do the same. Such times call for pragmatic reflection, looking back and forth, with the intention of transforming our faith into concrete practical actions, as we face an uncertain future, which only God knows.
As the nation moves towards a constitutional referendum and general elections, we call upon the people to carefully assess progress made to date and the role which every Zimbabwean can playing in shaping a brighter and more secure future for our country. This we need to do, so that we avoid having to go through another painful process similar to what happened in 2008 and 2009.
The present situation
1. The economy
We have not witnessed significant economic growth in the past couple of years. Our industries remain depressed. This has had a very negative effect on the employment prospects for many Zimbabweans. We note with dismay the continued bickering and blame shifting along political lines on the state of the economy and policy implementation.
2. The Constitution-making process
Even though we noted with dismay the delays in coming up with a draft constitution, and the deliberate sidelining of Faith-Based Organizations in finalizing the document, we none-the-less participated prayerfully in the whole process. We urge the nation to support the finalization of the process.
Once again, we reiterate our message of peace and tolerance to all political parties and their leaders as they campaign for votes in the General Elections. Men and women of faith should play a positive role in maintaining sanity in all political processes. We must avoid blood-shed, like what happened in 2008. We hope and pray that the next elections will not result in a disputed and bloody process leading to another negotiated settlement. Our message to the Nation is that every citizen of the majority – age level gets registered to vote. When the time comes, let us pray first, and then go to the polls, hoping and trusting God to use that process to choose the next generation of leaders and government. Zimbabwe needs God fearing and peace-loving leaders, not corrupt and evil rulers. Our pastoral message to political leaders is that it is possible to have peaceful elections in Zimbabwe. It is possible to win an election without engaging in violence.
3. Human rights, responsibilities, protection and participation of vulnerable groups
Our message to those in authority is that they should put in place electoral and political processes that involve vulnerable or marginalized groups such as women, children, the disabled and those living positively with HIV/AIDS. We heard and do hereby reiterate their cry: “Nothing for us without us”.
4. Local Authorities
We note with great concern the deteriorating standards in some cities and towns, especially in as far as water-reticulation and sanitation is concerned. We urge those in local authorities and relevant ministries to correct these ills and make sure water is availed to our people, especially in Bulawayo and some regions of Harare and elsewhere.
We condemn in the strongest terms possible the cancerous and toxic scourge of corruption that is spreading within our society and call upon the authorities to take decisive measures to and corruption. Zimbabwe’s development is retarded on account of millions of dollars lost to corruption.
6. The family remains the most important social unit. Yet it is increasingly under siege from various, social, economic, technological and political factors. The family is the first teacher and pastor. Strong families lead to a strong society. While we may be preoccupied with national issues and processes: forgiveness, peace, reconciliation, justice and healing, these virtues should be emphasized at the family level. Talking of these virtues without regarding the family as the champion may not yield much.
The family needs to be supported in all respects but also defended and protected from deviant influences so that it can play its rightful role.
The church should play its rightful role in nurturing family values and facilitate the promotion of respect and tolerance at all levels of society. Church leaders at all levels are called upon to unite all the faithful in prayer and good conduct, to fight for unity and against division living in obedience to God.
7. The Anglican Church
We rejoice with the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe (CPCA) following the recent Supreme Court ruling which restored their right to worship without any interference. We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done to normalize the situation but pray that under God’s guidance the pain of the past will be overshadowed by the joy and blessings of the present and that forgiveness will abound in the hearts of all that were wronged.
Our MESSAGE to the whole nation
The essence of our message to the nation of Zimbabwe is that if ever there is any era in which the Christian Church will benefit from hearing the divine whisperings about our context, it is NOW! Now is the decisive moment to “rise up and build” (Nehemiah 2:18). Like Nehemiah of old, we are saying to Zimbabweans: “Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem (Zimbabwe), that we may no longer suffer disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). Like the true prophets we are, men and women of God called in times of crisis to proclaim the will of Yahweh to His people. We call upon our nation to repentance in those wrong things we did in the past and to work tirelessly to avoid a painful repeat which points to a hopeless future. God calls us to humbly present ourselves before him and plead for our nation and demonstrate our sincerity in deed as the word of God states: “If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
8. Reconciliation, peace and justice
We exhort the Church in Zimbabwe to explore its Christian vocation more deeply during these trying times. The Church is called upon in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to live in reconciliation with the Chief Shepherd, its master and Head, and between individuals and communities to promote peace and justice in truth for all people of this nation.
It is important for us as Christians to rekindle our faith and hope in Christ so as to help rebuild a reconciled Zimbabwe, pursuing paths of truth and justice, love, and peace, even as we go through the forthcoming elections. As we read from Psalms 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain”. We should humbly submit ourselves to the Lord so that He can lead us as we work towards a prosperous Zimbabwe.
As the Church, we acknowledge calls for peace and tolerance which have been repeatedly coming from the Principals and other leaders in the Unity Government. We applaud them for such calls. Nevertheless, we wait to see them translating such calls into concrete actions through their political party structures and processes. Pronouncements by political leaders encouraging peace will remain unconvincing and hollow if the message does not clearly filter through the structures of their parties and organizations. We also call upon the nation to take heed of such calls and work tirelessly to translate them into concrete actions. Genuine peace can only be there if it is everyone’s responsibility as aptly stated in the motto by the Organ on National Healing Reconciliation and Integration: “Peace begins with me. Peace begins with you. Peace begins with us”.
Our message to all is that as we approach the finalization of the national constitution and elections, let the words: “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world”, (Matthew 5:13) ring in every Christian’s mind. Consistent with this message from Christ that we are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world, and inspired by “…faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), let us all seek and work together to offer the fruits of that love, which are, among others: reconciliation, tolerance, peace, and justice (Galatians 5:22).
We demand these virtues from leaders of all political parties many of whom are part of our flock. We emphasize that reconciliation, tolerance, and justice are essential ingredients in the process of building a peaceful Zimbabwe. Therefore we should cherish these virtues. Violence during campaigns and elections worsens the situation. Reconciliation is not an isolated event, but a process which involves deep engagement and the honest search for one’s heart and intentions for truth in love, so that the wounds of division and hatred may be healed.
Let us all rally under the unifying theme: “Work for Peace in Zimbabwe: Pray it! Speak it! Spread it! Do it!”. We are further admonished by the word of God to seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14), and make peace our governor ((Isaiah 60:17-18)). True peace comes from God and begins with each individual, you and me.
Therefore people of faith: “Take heart: rise, He is calling you”. (Mark 10:49).
God of life, lead Zimbabwe to peace, justice, and dignity!
Yours in Christ’s vineyard,