Church leaders in Zimbabwe are starting a process of self-examination and change which will enable them to take up a significant role in the reconstruction of their country alongside other civil society organisations.
After a groundbreaking meeting, the leaders of the Heads of Christian Denominations, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference, the Christian Alliance, the Anglican Diocese of Harare, the Ecumenical Support Services and New Frontiers-Zimbabwe, have issued a letter setting out their aims.
In the letter the religious leaders acknowledge their own shortcomings and lack of moral leadership in the current crisis. It states: ‘The church in general has been divided and as such has been unable to satisfactorily meet the physical, moral and spiritual needs of the nation which is now in absolute crisis.’
It goes on: ‘The church must genuinely repent to God and confess to the suffering people of Zimbabwe for not fulfilling the two greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord thy God’ and ‘Love thy neighbour.’
A consultation which will include about 25 key church leaders will be held in a few weeks time. They will discuss unity, healing and reconciliation, and the role of the church in Zimbabwe’s past, present and future.
‘We must gather together to repent,’ says Bishop Levee Kadenge of the Christian Alliance. ‘Only then can we prepare ourselves to be the moral and spiritual conscience of the nation and position ourselves at the heart of the reconstruction of our beloved nation.’
This landmark initiative for unity and reconciliation in the church in Zimbabwe has global ecumenical support which Christian Aid is currently supporting.
‘The initiative for unity will enable church leaders to build relations with each other, support each other in the face of oppression, condemn as one the injustices that are now a daily part of life in Zimbabwe and through these actions of corporate healing so take on the mantle of healing the nation,’ says William Anderson, Christian Aid’s country manager in Zimbabwe.
‘The church must now demonstrate genuine unity by standing with the poor, weak, suffering and oppressed people,’ says the Rev Jonah Gokova of the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference.
Religious leaders will also discuss the setting up of a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Fear has permeated the lives of all Zimbabweans; trust has broken down, the country has experienced untold suffering and countless acts of injustice.
But only when the church has thrown off its own cloak of fear will it be able to help the nation do the same.
‘The church should be at the heart of truth and reconciliation in Zimbabwe. Sadly as a divided body it has been unable to play a meaningful role at the national level for more than a decade and therefore cannot form a Truth Commission,’ says Mr Anderson.
‘A secular Truth and Reconciliation Commission will not be able to take the nation forward in the same way as one that could and should be led by the church.’