‚ÄúThe challenges facing our nation do not seem to want to go away,‚Äù Danisa Ndlovu, Bishop of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe, told Mennonite World Conference officers and executive staff at a California, USA, meeting earlier this month (January 2007). ‚ÄúEach day seems to bring more hardships.‚Äù
Ndlovu is asking the Mennonite global family to continue to pray for his country and his church and to make solidarity visits to Zimbabwe. He also requested financial assistance for the BICC Peace Committee and MWC's help in creating a Peace, Social Justice and Ethics desk to serve Zimbabwe and other African countries.
MWC officers at the California meeting agreed to send a 'Koinonia Team' to visit Zimbabwe in 2007 to build community through presence, prayer and encouragement. Volunteers for the team will be considered along with selected participants.
Ndlovu, vice-president and president-elect of MWC, described increasingly devastating political, economic and social conditions. To address the situation, three major Christian church groups in Zimbabwe are banding together for new action. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, of which the BICC is a member, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop's Conference are calling for dialogue among all sectors of Zimbabwean people both inside and outside the country to construct a national vision for future governance in the country.
The church umbrella bodies have jointly produced a discussion document entitled 'The Zimbabwe We Want: Towards a National Vision for Zimbabwe', which they presented to President Robert Mugabe. They are hoping that all stakeholders, not only churches, will take ownership of the process.
The proposed extension of Mugabe's term to 2010 appears to be creating division within the ruling party and resistance by the opposition and civic groups, which adds to the anxiety in a nation where there is little political tolerance.
Under Mugabe's leadership in recent years the country has spun into sharp decline. Professional people continue to leave. The economic situation fuels corruption, unemployment is still at 80 percent, inflation continues at 1,200 percent, the highest in the world, and life expectancy is now about 38 years.
Health delivery is also compromised. Hospitals have few if any drugs. The sick are sometimes being asked to hunt for medical prescriptions in the market and then take the medicine to the hospital for their treatment. One ray of hope is the report that the rate of HIV/AIDS infections is decreasing, but the pandemic continues with an increasing number of orphans as a result.
Many of the thousands of people made homeless by the 2005 'Restore Order/Clean Up' still have no homes. The promised new homes have mostly gone to government employees and friends. New ‚Äúclean-up‚Äù operations have left more people homeless.
Bishop Ndlovu reported that on a December 2006 trip to Harare, the capital city, he saw people ‚Äúwho had piled their belongings, some along the road, praying for transport... to who knows where,‚Äù their huts smoldering or in flames.
‚ÄúWe are praying that this cup of suffering will go away,‚Äù said Ndlovu.
With thanks to Ferne Burkhardt, Mennonite World Conference news editor.