Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Zimbabwe: Church leaders issue pre-election statement

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has announced that national elections for parliamentary seats and for the presidency will be held on July 31. Due to the history of violence and unrest during election periods, Zimbabwe’s citizens rightly are anxious about the upcoming vote. (Find more articles about Zimbabwe at allafrica.com.)

In recent months, church leaders have published pastoral messages in order to provide guidance and strength – this article about the Catholic bishops’ statement "Zimbabwe elections 2013 and the God of second chances” was printed in the May-June 2013 issue of NewsNotes. On July 2, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA) released a statement, “Recognising God’s moment: A pastoral statement to the public from churches in Manicaland.” (Manicaland is the easternmost province of Zimbabwe.)

Following are excerpts from “Recognising God’s moment”; the statement in its entirety is attached as a PDF at the end of this page.

All of life is lived in God’s presence. Not only our personal lives but also the public institutions and systems we create are open to God’s use and subject to God’s judgment. We therefore have a duty to ensure that politics, like other human systems, is guided by moral values. … As we have done many times over the past 13 years, Churches in Manicaland speaks as a forum of church leaders that is not aligned to any particular political interest group or party. We speak from a prayerful study of God’s Word for us in our time and from the core principles of our Christian faith. …

There are many questions in people’s minds about issues that Zimbabweans had expected would be resolved before this stage in our political process. However, there are some points of clarity on which we can be confident. The first is that the sovereignty of our nation rests solely in our recognition of the sovereignty of God over all creation. We have acknowledged this truth in our new Constitution: “We the people of Zimbabwe... acknowledging the supremacy of Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies...” (Preamble). The good news for us is that God’s world was created to be a united and inter-active whole.

Zimbabweans have many different political identities and these have created artificial divisions between us. The truth is that our partisan, geographical, historical, ethnic, religious and other identities do not ultimately define who we are. We find our true identity as children of God, all equally recipients of God’s gifts that define what it means to be human and what it means to be a community. …

The second point on which we can be sure is that God places before us the opportune moment for peace. We have reached a moment of solemn choice in the history of our nation. Far more important than any political party we may choose to support is the way of life we choose, and this includes our political life. The way in which we conduct ourselves over the next few months will determine whether we plunge into chaos, or emerge from a long painful history as a solid community. …

Over the past two years our Government of National Unity (GNU) has appealed to the public for a commitment to peace. We commend this call as an outcome of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the GNU principles on September 15th, 2008 in which they declared themselves “determine to build a society free of violence, fear, intimidation, hatred, patronage, corruption...” (Preamble). They agreed that “all political parties, other organisations and their leaders shall commit themselves to do everything to stop and prevent all forms of political violence” (Article 18.5 d) and also agreed “to take all measures necessary to ensure that the structures and institutions they control are not engaged in the perpetration of violence” (Article 18.5 e). The GPA indicated new attitudes and possibilities and gave a breathing space to the Zimbabwean people who had grown weary of political wrangling and its life-draining effects. The binding oath taken in September 2008 stands in judgment of all decisions taken around the forthcoming election. Having confirmed what is possible, we cannot afford to turn back and pretend that what was once agreed to is impossible. We must build forward. …

Whoever we elect to leadership at all levels in 2013 will take on responsibility for a nation of people who are really struggling to stay on their feet. The signs of suffering we see prevailing throughout the country are evident in our own province of Manicaland, even though we are one of the most naturally blessed regions in the country. We are deeply concerned that there are growing numbers of Zimbabwean children who are not in school. This is unacceptable in our Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned that among us there are many sick people who cannot afford medical care. This should never happen in Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned that increasingly the elderly, both in urban and rural settings, find themselves without means of survival. This should not be happening in Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned about the growing number of our youth who cannot earn a decent living, who cannot afford to marry, who are forced into unhealthy occupations or into migration in order to support themselves and their families. This is a shameful thing in our Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned when we hear our people opt for civic poverty by giving up their right to vote because they fear elections. This undermines the future of Zimbabwe. We are deeply concerned when politicians disrespect the people’s intelligence and right of choice by applying fear-inducing tactics to enforce loyalty. This is not true Zimbabwean leadership. We are deeply concerned when we see not only increased levels of poverty and suffering for many, but also increased levels of wealth and greed for a few. This is not a profile of Zimbabwe that anyone can be proud of. We expect all our leaders elected in 2013 to prioritise these concerns, whatever their political party platforms. Crying “Peace, peace” will have no effect unless we join our efforts and do all that we can to right these wrongs. …

Turning this nation around will require a far greater effort than we have exerted up to now. The character of our nation depends not only on the quality of its leadership, but also on the collective character of its citizens. Each one of us influences the environment in which we operate and therefore each one of us must be aware of our importance as a contributor to just peace. Whether you are a news editor or in the security sector, a church leader or a farmer, a domestic worker or a student or a construction worker, whether you spend your days in a government office or in the streets, whether you are retired or a Zimbabwean in the diaspora, we appeal to all our fellow citizens to recognise God’s moment of opportunity for peace …

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