|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Enough is Enough
We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!
29 March 2004
Report on the National Day of Prayer in Zimbabwe, 27 March 2004.
The CIO or state security agents – the dreaded agents of Mugabe’s tyrannical rule – swept through the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral, Bulawayo, early in the morning. Before 8.00 am a small contingent of riot police had taken up position outside the Cathedral to keep a close watch on those arriving early for the prayer service, scheduled for 10.00 am. The plans for this service had been long in the making and the CIO who have ears and eyes everywhere in this police state, had obviously heard from their informers and were going to take no chances with a gathering – albeit for worship – which from their point of view was of subversive intent. Already they had detained for questioning a civic leader who was one of a small group responsible for planning the service, and charged him on three counts under the notorious Public Order and Security Act. The atmosphere was tense therefore as worshippers began to arrive at St Mary’s. The intimidating presence of the riot police and the sure knowledge that the CIO were watching every move cast a shadow over the bright new day.
“Deliver us from evil” was the theme of the day for prayer that was to be celebrated with major ecumenical services in both Bulawayo and Harare. The evil, or evils, from which Zimbabwean Christians are seeking deliverance, appear in many different guises but most would agree that the common factor underlying all is the vicious and utterly corrupt rule of a regime that no longer commands respect or has any moral or spiritual legitimacy. The intercessions offered up in the Cathedral were to include prayers for deliverance from the politics of violence and hatred, from the threat of starvation, from corrupt and self-serving rulers, from the laws that rob people of their freedom and dignity, and above all from the fear that paralyses the victims. Also included were prayers for an end to the pernicious evil of the youth militia programme, recently featured in the BBC Panorama programme.
The service began promptly at 10.00, the large Cathedral filling steadily both before and after the appointed hour, as is custom in Africa. Well over a thousand worshippers packed in despite the intimidating presence of the riot police on the pavement outside and the sure knowledge that many plain-clothed CIO men were present in the congregation. Indeed their presence was acknowledged in the proceedings and special prayers offered for their spiritual enlightenment. The beautiful harmonies of the African choirs soon filled the sanctuary and helped worshippers to focus rather on the comforting and strengthening presence of the sovereign God than the signs of disorder around them.
A tremendous source of encouragement to worshippers was the presence of a number of regional church leaders who had flown in to Bulawayo from South Africa and Zambia just to stand in solidarity with God’s people in their time of need. Bishops from the Anglican Church and the Pentecostal tradition, Catholic priests and others shared in leading the prayers alongside their Zimbabwean counter-parts. From their own parishes and their own people they brought messages of hope, support and encouragement to the suffering people of Zimbabwe - reminding them how the God of justice and truth had miraculously delivered South Africa from the grip of a tyranny no less evil in 1994.
The contribution of one particularly courageous and outspoken man of God, Archbishop Pius Ncube, was recognised in the service and he was honoured for two international human rights awards bestowed upon him in 2003 – awards which many Zimbabweans were not even aware of due to the silencing of the free press and the totally biased reporting in the state media. The congregation rose spontaneously to applaud the man who has received many death threats, yet continues to speak the truth fearlessly.
Civic society was also represented in the service and their contribution towards a free and democratic Zimbabwe was celebrated. In a moving ceremony representative human rights’ activists, a lawyer, a doctor and a reporter lit candles around the central Amnesty Candle. They were honoured as representing the many who have played a leading role in the struggle for freedom, at great cost, not before independence but rather in the years since (1980 – 2004).
The service ended on a high note with the huge assembly joining hands – black and white, Ndebele and Shona, activists and collaborators – to pray the Kingdom prayer taught by Jesus: “Deliver us from evil, for yours is the Kingdom !”
(It is estimated that some 2000 people attended the prayer service in Harare which passed off peacefully without any overt intimidation or harassment from the police)
Christians Together for Justice and Peace
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