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Comment: The Church must speak openly on violence

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The violence and chaos that took place at the various outreach venues in Harare can best be described as barbaric.

This was an opportunity for Harare residents to air their views so that they would eventually be included in Zimbabwe’s new constitution.

But the deliberations had to be aborted as political violence took root, forcing Copac chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana and his colleagues to flee Mai Musodzi Hall in Mbare at the weekend.

In Mabelreign, a well-known ex-combatant prayed before the meeting started, calling on God to kill those who had sold out their land to imperialists.

That was the highest level of intolerance and hate. It tells the extent to which hate speech and intolerance have become part of Zimbabwe’s politics.

These scenes no doubt gave an insight into the post-election violence in 2008 that is likely to be replicated in any future election, if the political playing field remains lop-sided.

Why should one die because of divergent political views? And which God was this war veteran praying to?

All Christians know that God is peace-loving and the Bible speaks about love through and through. This war veteran had assumed the qualities of God, a situation that is untenable. That is what we call blasphemy.

Most of these so-called ex-combatants were reportedly drunk. What valuable contribution can such people make to such a crucial national event? And why did these individuals use prayer-time to intimidate participants at this outreach meeting?

The views expressed during Copac meetings are supposed to culminate in a draft constitution, a document that will guide Zimbabweans for many generations to come and yet rowdy, misguided youths and, in some cases, so-called veterans of the country’s 1970s liberation struggle, have trivialised the process.

We wonder whose interests these people are serving. Besides, we have heard reports that groups of hired thugs, some of whom are evidently in Harare for the very first time, are roaming meeting venues with the intention of intimidating supposed MDC-T supporters.

They are being used, and we can’t blame them.

There is a deafening silence on the part of religious organisations and church leaders over the blasphemous utterances, which is very baffling, to say the least.

We believe the Church should take a leading role in shaping the morals of our society but it seems as though it has taken a back seat, living in isolation of what is happening.

We probably would be asking too much from religious leaders and their organisations, as some of them have also used hate speech and violence against their followers to maintain their stranglehold on power when it suited them.

We hardly heard any voices from the Church during post- election violence in 2008, when there were serious human rights abuses, particularly in the countryside. Women were raped, men maimed and families displaced from their homes. But still the Church was mute.

Blasphemy, just like maiming and killing people, are sinful activities, and because we are a Bible-believing nation, churches should rise up and speak openly about the horrors that have taken place in Zimbabwe.

When MPs and political leaders take oath of office, they swear using the Bible and undertake to lead as instructed in the Holy Book.

We do not need rulers in this country but leaders in society to guide us in this vital constitution-making process, for the benefit of the next generations.

But it has become evident that the Church could be divided along political lines and that indeed is tragic.

It is high time the Church stood up to defend the principles of justice. It must rebuke blasphemous statements, especially those aimed at intimidating the country’s citizens for the perpetuation of injustice.

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