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Churches stand up, unite against Mugabe

by Staff Reporter
22 Jul 2016 at 14:33hrs | Views
HARARE - As the rot that is devouring Zimbabwe under Zanu PF's continued misrule deepens, the country's usually circumspect clergy are more and more finding their voice, uniting yesterday to say it was now time for the Church to speak truth to power and stand up for long-suffering citizens.

Speaking during a discussion with the media in Harare, the despairing church leaders also vowed to step up their newfound activism, adding that it was imperative that the government respected people's rights and worked to uplift the lives of all Zimbabweans.

During the meeting with the media, which was held under the auspices of the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) - an umbrella body that includes the Anglican and Methodist churches - the gathered clergy said the country's deteriorating political and socio-economic environment compelled them to speak out.

They were also vocal against the planned introduction of bond notes to ease worsening cash shortages in the country, endemic public sector corruption and the government's failure to honour most of its obligations, including paying civil servants their salaries on time.

Tellingly, the church leaders said the seemingly unappreciated government workers were well within their rights to embark on protests and strikes in a desperate endeavour to force the State to pay them.

ECLF executive director, Ambrose Moyo, said the organisation's members had decided to come out of their shells because "our people are suffering and have gone through traumatising times".

"Churches are fundamental. If 80 percent of the country's population is Christian, why all these beatings, why the torture? We must stand up and say this is what we were called to do," Moyo said.

"The Church has been divided as leaders see things differently and some of our church leaders benefit from the status quo, while others are afraid.

"There is fear despite the fact that the Lord said ‘do not be afraid'. We should not be afraid, let us inspire one another to remove fear," he added.

At the same time, the general assembly of the Uniting Presbyterian in Southern Africa (UPSA) — which is represented in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia — also condemned the government's heavy-handed tactics in tackling growing dissent in the country.

"We categorically condemn the Zimbabwe government's heavy-handed approach in dealing with peaceful expression of protest.

"The arrests, the beatings and the disappearance of outspoken critics of ... Mugabe's government are completely unacceptable, particularly for a country that ostensibly claims to be democratic," said UPSA secretary-general, Lungile Mpetsheni.

The resolve by the Church to tackle Zimbabwe's problems head-on comes after Zanu PF youths held marches on Monday, targeted against people like under-fire Baptist preacher, Pastor Evan Mawarire, who has been leading peaceful protests against the country's deteriorating economic conditions.

Another church leader and vice president of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Lazarus Kanye , said even more bluntly that it was now time that the Church spoke up because many Zimbabweans were suffering under the yoke of punishing poverty.

"When things are happening to people who come to church every Sunday we have to be concerned. About 94 percent of the people do not understand the Constitution even as it is the supreme law.

"We are also worried about the failure by government to give teeth to commissions.

"We are also concerned with the hunger sweeping across the country, and yet no one seems to be concerned. There are a lot of roadblocks and we are also concerned by that," Kanye said.

Many other speakers at yesterday's meeting also emphasised the need for the Church to unite and press the governing party to respect people's rights that had been trampled for many years by those in power.

The chairperson of the ECLF board of trustees, Danisa Ndlovu, also said churches, some of whose members had allegedly been used to wage battles against fellow citizens, had to unite and put pressure on authorities to deliver on their promises.

"Churches are powerful institutions but our leaders have been capitalising on our divisions and they can manipulate us to the extent that we are rendered useless," he said.

In the recent past, other church leaders such as Emmanuel Makandiwa of the United Family International and Shingi Munyeza have also spoken out against the country's economic decay which critics attribute to the governing party's ill-advised policies.



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