National healing, a priority for Zimbabwe

national_healingFour months ago, the Christian Alliance, Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference appealed to the Ministers of State for National Healing, Sekai Holland, John Nkomo and Gibson Sibanda, to embark rapidly on the path to national healing. So far, little has been done.

In a comprehensive position paper to the ministers, the three organizations said the Church had a key role to play in the process towards national healing because 75% of all Zimbabweans were professing Christians. Excerpts from the paper follow:

We are concerned at increasing reports of politically motivated violence. There is also, on an increasing scale, violence perpetrated by people seeking revenge in the absence of visible efforts by government to see that justice is done. It is, therefore, imperative that the nation quickly embarks on the path to national healing.
It is also clear that it is impossible to start work on national healing while fresh wounds are being inflicted. The government should, therefore, see to it that there is an immediate return to the rule of law, the establishment of order and an end to impunity. Law enforcement agencies and the army should go back to their constitutional roles and leave politics to politicians. Without this the future of Zimbabwe will be bleak indeed.
The effects of the use of violence in Zimbabwe have remained unresolved since before the country was colonized. First, there was the war between the Shonas and the Ndebeles. Then there was the colonial war in which British settlers led by Cecil John Rhodes took over power by force from local chiefs resulting in the establishment of Rhodesia.
This was followed by the war of liberation which ended in 1980 with the establishment of a new Zimbabwe. In the early eighties Zimbabwe again experienced the violence of war in Matebeleland which left about 20,000 people dead. Up to now the country has not resolved that conflict.

Every election since 1980 has been violent. This violence has been carried out mainly by political activists with impunity. The land invasions that happened from the year 2000 left a lot of people hurt, killed, displaced and without property and yet none of the known perpetrators were ever arrested for their crimes.
The 2008 elections were the worst of all. Stories are told of how people were attacked by their own relatives and those from the same church, because they belonged to different political parties. In some cases torture bases were set up to which innocent people were tortured horribly. Many people still carry the visible scars from this violent period.

Those involved are today still living together with the victims. The important task of national healing cannot be the responsibility of politicians alone. It should involve more people, especially the church and civil society. The church can use its experience and compassion to contribute. Already many churches and civil society groups are working on projects on forgiveness and reconciliation.

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