An unstoppable journey

As the rain comes down from heaven and does not return without watering the earth, so my word does not return to me empty without carrying out my will. (Isaiah 55:10)

I was thinking of these words of inevitability when reflecting on news from Turkey last week. It is a country formed out of the remains of the old empire of Islam 90 years ago and roughly comprises what the Bible calls Asia Minor.

Despite the democratic institutions set up after 1919 the new country never quite sloughed off the military control that watched in the background. Whenever an elected government attempted to do something the army did not like it was firmly told to refrain or it would find itself out of power. That was the situation until last week.

But now the military, having seen the massive support for the present prime minister during repeated elections, have finally given in to the civilian authorities and abandoned their power of veto over the government. For the first time in history the country is firmly in the hands of democratically elected leaders.

This is immensely significant for two reasons. Turkey is a proud new Islamic country full of self affirmation and confidence and it is now also democratic. I was there three years ago and the national flag flies from every second house. Egypt and Tunisia are on the way to setting up democratic systems and if they succeed – and join Turkey in doing so – the shift towards accountable government in the Arab world will be unstoppable. And if that happens it will be a contagion spreading right through Africa.

Secondly, Turkey is applying to join the European Union. The counties of Europe are divided. Some don’t want the Turks in; others very much want them to join. I think they will join eventually and this putting of the military in their place will look good in their CV when the negotiations resume. When they do get in they are going to change Europe.

The old continent of basically like-minded countries (despite their quarrels behind closed doors) is going to have to face up to the new reality of sharing their space with a new country with a different culture and faith. It is going to be very uncomfortable for a while – until they all learn to understand each other.

What has all this got to do with our little patch of the planet called Zimbabwe? Well, quite a lot! Here is a country that is getting its military into its proper place and prepared to engage with other countries that are quite different from itself in the hope of greater harmony and prosperity for all the people concerned.

In antiquity the Romans ruled by force from Persia to the Atlantic. Today they are building a community of peoples in the same geographical area by consent. It is no mean achievement. In our little Zimbabwean world – where we can’t even agree to get on with one another or form a government we all accept – we have a long way to go. But go we will. It is as inevitable as the rain falling on the soil and producing crops.

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Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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