ZIMBABWE – Christian leaders join together to speak out against injustice and harassment of clergy
The Zimbabwe Catholic bishops’ conference joined the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and other groups in issuing a statement calling for an end to harassment of clergy and for a just response to other grievances:
“We call upon our government to listen to the cries of citizens whose cries and sufferings are loud and clear. There is need to act justly and mercifully on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged in our nation.”
Church leaders voiced concern about apparent disregard for the constitution by the government and police, failure to deal with corruption, and the exclusion of citizens from determining their destiny. “These grievances must be viewed as the early warning signs which indicate underlying and simmering tensions that will soon explode into civil unrest if not addressed,” they said.
In particular, the group of Church leaders expressed their concern about the harassment, arrests and the intimidation of clergymen “speaking on behalf of powerless people.” They joined other citizens in protesting against the government and officials’ harsh treatment of Baptist pastor Evan Mawarire.
Last May, Mawarire launched the “#ThisFlag” social media movement to voice frustration about the situation in Zimbabwe through Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Although the pastor’s videos emphasised non-violence, he was arrested and charged with inciting public violence and subversion. Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe verbally attacked Mawarire, claiming he is a false minister backed by foreign countries that want to destabilize the country. Crowds took to the streets to protest and the pastor was released after a court threw out charges.
The Christian leaders’ message condemned the brutality of law enforcement and urged the government to protect citizens’ rights to demonstrate and protest, adding “In exercising this right, we implore citizens to always remain peaceful in their demonstrations.”
“We call upon the Church, which is the salt and light of this nation, to continue to pray and also to speak out prophetically against any unjust system, until we have a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe in which every citizen’s God given and constitutional rights are respected.”
They prayed that their country would be one that respects all citizens and that fears God in its love for justice, peace and love of one’s neighbour and concluded by saying.
“May God grant us Zimbabweans the courage, faith and hope to face our challenges.”