Though President Mugabe, unsurprisingly, has refused to resign, despite his removal as the head his Zanu PF party, demonstrations on the streets by thousands of Zimbabweans and persuasion by leaders and interest groups, Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHCD) who have also backed the deposition of President Mugabe and said the crisis was long in the making the end, as far as the church leaders knew, would come down to this crisis.
A Catholic Priest, and close friend of the deposed president, Father Fidelis Mukonori is part of the negotiation that tried to give Mugabe an ‘honourable exit’ from power. Mugabe’s refusal to resign has prompted the Zanu Party to initiate the move for his impeachment.
The church leaders, however see the positive in the current crisis, “We see the current arrangement as an opportunity for the birth of a new nation. Our God created everything out of chaos. In order for something new to be born, we need to clearly define our problem. Proper naming of the problem will give us a clear sense of where we must go as a nation,” ZHCD said.
“The Zimbabwe Defence Forces have stressed that theirs is not a military coup, but an effort to manage the current situation. In light of this position, we are calling for the formulation of a transitional government of national unity that will oversee the smooth transition to a free and fair election,” the heads of churches said in a statement.
In a pastoral letter, the Archbishop of Central Africa, Albert Chama, called for prayer and dialogue. Archbishop Albert, who is also the chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (Capa), said, “this sad situation needs more than a political solution. It also needs all people of faith to pray and all citizens to engage in dialogue for the sake of peace and stability in Zimbabwe.” Chama said. “This is based on the call to follow Christ the Prince of Peace and the incarnate God who, in dwelling with and among us, affirms the dignity of each one of us and our environment.” He added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who has been keenly “following events in Zimbabwe closely and praying intensely for a peaceful solution,” said: “I am praying for the whole nation of Zimbabwe – its people, its military, its political leaders – that they may find a path forward that leads to the flourishing of this nation and all its people.” Addressing the Church in Zimbabwe, Archbishop Welby said, “your brothers and sisters around the Anglican Communion stand with you in prayer, solidarity and hope. Your faith, courage and persistence in the face of difficult times has long been an example to the world. May God strengthen, protect and guide you as you seek to bear witness to the love of Christ at this deeply challenging time.” Welby said.
The Bishop of Harare, Chad Gandiya, Speaking on the UK’s Premier Christian Radio, said
“we thank God that there is quietness in the country and in the city of Harare in particular. As a church, we are concerned that what we are going through is peaceful. We are concerned about violence – nobody wants violence and we are grateful that the authorities at this time are also encouraging us all not to be violent. We are concerned that whatever changes are in store for us, these take place in a peaceful manner.”
Bishop Gandiya hoped “that when elections do take place they will be free and fair.” The Bishop added that “everybody believes that we can recover and that the jewel will sparkle again.”
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, sid said he is encouraged “by the way churches in Zimbabwe stand together in solidarity in this difficult situation, and we join them in praying for peaceful developments in the country.” He has joined calls for churches around the world to pray for peace and justice in Zimbabwe.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.