The hope that refuses to die

An extract from an open pastoral letter to the Zimbabwean churches BY ALLAN BOESAK

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Since I have been privileged to be in Zimbabwe some weeks ago and saw with my own eyes the situation in which you find yourselves, Zimbabwe has refused to let of me in a way I have not experienced before.

The images remain stark and deeply disturbing: the empty shelves in shops and the greater emptiness in the eyes of children, women and men; the sight of armed soldiers and the spontaneous anxious wondering what they are up to; the sense of betrayal inflicted upon a people whose only crime seems to be the audacity of their hopes and aspirations; the absence of the signs of life which we South Africans take for granted; the helplessness on the faces of those who tell us of hunger and suffering; of torture and death; the palpable fear that hangs like a miasma in the air and permeates the very words we hear.

At the same time though, even as you spoke of these terrible and terrifying things, you opened your hearts for us to see the hope that refuses to die, the faith that clings to the promises of God and the expectation that the God of the promise will be faithful; the patient forbearance to which all of us are called and yet so few of us can muster; the unspoken and spoken conviction that the fervent prayers of the righteous shall be heard and answered.

I have left your country shaken to the core and with a sense of the righteous anger that I felt during apartheid and more recently at the betrayal of our own poor, right here in South Africa.

What I have seen have shown just how wrong our president, Thabo Mbeki, was when he spoke of Zimbabwe as if there is no crisis, as if the world’s concern for Zimbabwe is only because of the plight of the white farmers.

That might be true for a part of the world, that world where political cynicism is the coinage of the realm, where people’s lives do not matter but their death does, if it fits some selfish, self-interested agenda; that world where smart bombs make mistakes, where guided missiles are somehow misguided and pulverised children become collateral damage; where hunger and starvation, illness and the debilitation of poverty are devoid of a human face and instead become an opportunity for political posturing, easily replaced  by the next point that cannot allow human suffering to hold up the agenda.

But there is another world, where people actually matter, where dying children have a face, where abused women have a body and a soul; where hunger and illness are not statistics but a cry to heaven. This is a world where we know that people die because decisions are being made, where people can be held responsible for these decisions and for their consequences and where God is reminded of his promises.

This is a world where people pray and fight for justice and peace to embrace, and where we believe that God’s shalom must become part of our human reality. This is a world where caring and compassion are not strategic or incidental but real and at the core of our life together, of our being human in the world.

That world knows about Zimbabwe because it cares for the people of Zimbabwe. I come from that world. I recognise what I see in Zimbabwe because I have seen it before, here in South Africa. I know tyranny when I see it, and it is in Zimbabwe as surely as it was in South Africa.

That is the world who has heard your voice through some church leaders, ordinary Christians and those committed to justice, and who is now responding to your cries.

Thank you for your courageous witness.

Post published in: News

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