Being Church in a Nation in Crisis

August 13th, 2012 2:17 pm

Lawrence Mashungu

The church and the state are two separate institutions with different roles. Since the two institutions deal with the life of a person, more often than not the state feels undermined by the church when the latter does its work, especially when the former is violating human rights. These problems normally come when the church preaches its gospel of peace, justice and fairness in a country where the authorities feel that such work works to their downfall. This is the situation in Zimbabwe where the ruling elite think that anyone who speaks against oppression, violence and injustice speaks against the government of Robert Mugabe. Anyone who is viewed in this way faces the full wrath of the Zimbabwe Security Agency; the Church has not been spared in this onslaught.

The state has the obligation to provide the necessary protection of citizens and not to oppress them. The church on the other hand deals with the spiritual welfare of the person and in most cases complements government efforts to develop the nation through building schools and hospitals, to give examples where the church has done a lot in Zimbabwe. But, one can then argue that the church should be concerned with the source of the grief of the person for it to fully address their needs. In that regard the church cannot be silent when the source of suffering is clearly visible. The prophecy of the Old Testament is full of such cases where the prophet would openly castigate those who oppress the poor and take advantage of the weak; Amos is such an example. Therefore, the church, one can conclude, is a transforming and empowering community; it is the continued presence of Christ on earth. It is from this understanding that the church cannot afford to be indifferent in the face of our socio-political challenges because doing so will be tantamount to neglecting the human welfare.

The monstrous tyranny of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front regime has targeted church leaders who have been victims of arrests, abductions, illegal detentions and torture for openly speaking about the protection and respect of the rights of the citizenry. Leaders of such organizations such as the Christian Alliance, Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe, Ecumenical Support Services and many others have remained resolute and steadfast despite such monumental challenges they face from the intolerant and unrepentant government. Such acts of barbarism from the state have largely affected the operation of the church in Zimbabwe. It is sad to note that the interference of the state in the internal affairs of ecumenical institutions is a clear infringement on the right to freedom of worship and preaching the holy word to the people. This is so because the state is fully aware of the holy teachings of the Bible and that when the people hear such teachings they will be aware of the evils the state is committing against the people.

Church organisations have managed to hold a number of noble activities to see that Zimbabwe becomes a country where human dignity is upheld. In 2007, a prayer meeting under the theme ‘Save Zimbabwe Campaign’ resulted in the arrests, torture and killings of human rights activists who attended. It is only an irresponsible and autocratic government that can send heavily armed policemen with orders to shoot and kill innocent citizens who will be praying. Robert Mugabe claims to have grown up in a Christian family but his actions towards the church can only be equated to that of Judas Iscariot who sold out Jesus Christ for pieces of silver because to him what matters was political power: nothing more, nothing less.

Being church in a nation in crisis is something difficult to grapple with especially when the state feels threatened by the presence of the institutions that preach justice and peace. This might be caused by the fact that during the liberation struggle the church was on their side. Now the Church is on the wrong side the government is sure that the preaching of the church is against them.

Even in the current situation, there is hope that one day the nation will enjoy cordial relations between the church and the state. It is  our belief that this is going to happen when Zimbabwe has a new God-fearing leadership that does not view the church as an institution that mobilizes the masses against them. We continue to draw our inspiration from the prophet Joel who encourages us with the words, “And I will restore what the locust had eaten” (Joel 2.25).

Lawrence Mashungu born 11 November 1977 in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. He holds an honours degree in Chemical Engineering and is currently studying towards his master’s degree in Renewable Energy with the University of Zimbabwe. During his time at the university he was a student leader which culminated in him being arrested several times for standing for the rights of  students. He sits on the board of the Zimbabwe Youth Council and is employed by Youth Agenda Trust where he works as program’s officer responsible for advocacy. Lawrence was the National Chairperson of SCM Zimbabwe from 2007-2010.Lawrence has a passion for youth development and empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable populations. He strongly believes in the promotion of meaningful participation of young people in national processes.

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