|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
|'Posters are not that inspiring'|
|Godwin Gandu | Harare|
|25 March 2005 08:59|
Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe
PROMOTING NON-VIOLENT PRINCIPLES TO ACHIEVE DEMOCRACY
|Witness to the
Sokwanele Report : 25 March 2005
It is 6.30 a.m. on a cool autumn morning and the streets of Bulawayo – washed by a recent shower – are almost deserted, for this is a public holiday. Good Friday in fact when, in place of the usual bustle of commercial activity, we shall soon be seeing a good turnout of the faithful to religious services across the city – in what is after all a nation noted for its religious observance. But it is too early for that now. Instead, for the moment, all we can see is a few cars and a handful of people gathering in the car park of the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, St Mary’s.
Slowly the activity in the car park increases. More early risers arrive. A large cross appears on the scene and a number of smaller crude, wooden crosses alongside. A few clergy assemble, including one in vestments which mark him out as an archbishop. Someone is calling the small crowd of 30 or so to order. The archbishop offers up a short prayer. He is given one of the smaller crosses to carry and he sets off, leading the others on a Good Friday procession across the rain-washed streets of the city.
Nothing very remarkable about that, save that this is no ordinary country and these are no ordinary times. This is Zimbabwe, almost on the eve of the parliamentary elections. A country in the grip of a major political and economic crisis. Also a country held in the iron grip of an aging dictator who shows no signs of any willingness to acknowledge the widespread clamour for change in the country he has led since independence 25 years ago. As with most dictators Robert Mugabe presides over a police state. The police and the military were long since co-opted as agents of his ruling ZANU-PF party. The law has been bent and twisted, and broken where necessary, to preserve Mugabe and his cronies in power, and a raft of draconian security legislation employed to strike fear into the hearts of any would-be dissenters.
That is what marks this Good Friday procession out as special. The walkers are risking arrest and imprisonment at the least for just walking down the street together, bearing crosses, on route to an ecumenical service held in another of the city’s churches. Looking around the small crowd who set off from the Cathedral, one is aware that at least a half of them have already incurred the wrath of the Mugabe regime and spent a weekend or two – or more – in the city’s squalid police cells as a result. Some suffered that fate for daring to take part in a similar procession of witness from one church to another just a few years before. The infamous Public Order and Security Act which is the cornerstone of Mugabe’s brutal hold on power, does permit “bone fide religious” gatherings to proceed without police clearance, but if the local police chief has a narrower view of what amounts to a “bone fide religious” event than the local priest, then so much the worse for those who participate. All this morning’s walkers are aware of the risks. Indeed it is the omnipresent fear factor which has prevented many others from joining them – and which has made Árchbishop Pius Ncube who leads the procession such a lonely figure among a national church leadership that has allowed itself, in large measure, to be cowed into silence. The ecumenical group, Christians Together for Justice and Peace, which is behind this event, provides one of the few more honourable exceptions to a picture of shame.
The walkers proceed a few blocks through the city centre until they come to the steps of the City Hall. There by prior arrangement they are met by the City’s Executive Mayor, Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, another brave man who represents the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, and has had to endure all manner of harassment and intimidation from the Mugabe regime for his principled stand on many sensitive national issues. The Mayor greets the Archbishop warmly while the small assembly of the Christian faithful gather around. Then the Archbishop reads a short prepared text (*) in which he refers to the symbolism of the walk on this, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.
“We are walking together on this holy day … to mark the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a highly symbolic event because we are walking in solidarity with, and to draw attention to, the terrible plight of those who suffer here in Zimbabwe today.” Special mention is made of the hungry and the starving, the victims of violence and those who “hve suffered, and are suffering still, because of their courageous stand for truth, for justice and for the cause of freedom.”
The large cross carried to this point by one of the local pastors, is handed over ceremonially to the Mayor, to be placed in the Council Chamber as a token of Christian compassion and solidarity with the poor. The walkers bid farewell to the Mayor and continue on their way.
A few blocks down the road the walkers arrive at the City Presbyterian Church. Here they gather in worship, using a form of liturgy that has been written specially for the occasion, and is entitled “Suffering and the Resurrection Hope – A Liturgy of Prayer and Reflection for the General Elections in Zimbabwe”. The words were in fact crafted by a liturgical team in KwaZulu Natal and sent out world-wide, with an invitation to the world Church to focus their prayers upon those suffering in Zimbabwe at this Easter time. So the intercessions of these few faithful in Bulawayo - prayers for courage and hope and deliverance through the forthcoming parliamentary elections - will be echoed around the world this Easter.
Remarkably the police did not intervene on this occasion to stop the procession or to arrest any of those participating. Perhaps it was the element of surprise on the part of the organizers which found the police and their informers unprepared. Perhaps it was the presence of a few election observers, or representatives of the foreign press here to cover the elections, which restrained them. Or, just perhaps, the prayers of the faithful for deliverance from ungodly rule are at last being heard.
March 25, 2005
(*) The full text of the statement is given below
Walking in the way of the Cross
On the Steps of the City Hall (leading to the Mayor’s Chamber)
Your worship, we Christians Together for Peace and Justice, greet you as the civic leader of the City Of Bulawayo and as our brother in Christ. We are walking together on this holy day in the Church’s calendar to mark the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a highly symbolic event because we are walking in solidarity with, and to draw attention to, the terrible plight of those who suffer here in Zimbabwe today.
We remember the hungry and the starving. We remember the victims of violence and the victims of neglect. We remember those who have suffered, and are suffering still, because of their courageous stand for the truth, for justice and for the cause of freedom.
We mourn their pain and suffering. We confess our guilty silence and the silence of the Church in this land which for too long has prolonged their suffering, and we commit ourselves to work and witness and pray that all Zimbabweans may be free.
We present to you now this Cross which is a symbol both of our Lord’s compassion for all who suffer injustice and oppression, and a token of the victorious power of love revealed in his glorious resurrection.
God bless you.
accepts the cross….
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