Young girls and women congregants have been mostly victims of this religion misinterpretation. Hardly a week passes without newspapers having clamouring headlines of women and girls sexually molested under the pretext of false prophecies and misinterpretation as well as citation of convenient bible verses by prophets. Some girls as young as 12 years have been victims of this manhood self aggrandisement.
Coupled with seriously eroded national social protection system leaving children extremely vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse and with little access to justice and social welfare in the Zion and Apostolic churches, the perpetrators also take advantage of the countryâ€™s flaws in areas of child protection.
Probably realising that the apostolic churchesâ€™ reputation was being rapidly tainted following this unbecoming and barbaric conduct from these prophets, the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) resolved at its Bishops conference in Harare inÂ January last year to set up a national workingÂ Â committee to champion the rights of women and children. One of the major programmes which the committee implemented to inspire affiliate members to change the wellbeing of children suffering from abuse, child marriage and failure to attend school was to set up a Gender and Child Care Unit.
â€œSince the formation of the Child Care Unit within the ACCZ in partnership with other stakeholders such as women and children organisations, we have managed to develop policies and design programmes which empower women and children with specific focus on ending child abuse, child marriages and gender based violence. So far, we have set up church based child protection committees within all the churches affiliated to the councilâ€ said Hillary Moyo, ACCZ Gender and Child Care Unit national programmes officer in an interview with The Zimbabwean. The role of these committees according to Moyo is to monitor child abuses within affiliate churches and report them to relevant departments. The role of these committees is also trying to ensure a save and Free Church environment for vulnerable children.
â€œWe have secured safe houses for abused girls and women. Whenever we discover that for example a prophet is staying with a young girl, our committee members are obliged to take the victim and surrender her to the safe houses orÂ community leaders such chiefs or councillors depending on the community set upâ€ explained Moyo.
ACCZ membership comprises of 1 500 indigenous church affiliates with an estimated following of about 8, 5 million followers and approximately 4 million children. Moyo said his organisations.
ACCZ has also embarked on church based volunteer training programmes on child abuse and gender based violence.
In 2015, some leaders of ACCZ were attacked at Madzibaba Ishmael Mufaniâ€™s shrine in Budiriro while trying to rescue victims of religious misinterpretation. One of the victims was a 16 year old girl who was forced by Mufani to abandon school in 2012 while she was in form one.
â€œThis is one of the most high profile cases which the church has intervened. Madzibaba Ishmael gave such directives alleging that the victim would die upon continuing going to school as education was associated with Satanism. The girl also told church leaders that other girls of her age were given to some church members in marriage â€œsaid Moyo.Â Recently ACCZ leadership was forced to intervene in a case where a Bulawayo Sabbath Apostolic church rogue prophet wanted to marry an 18 year old girl, claiming that the Holy Spirit was driving him to do that.
â€œWhen this incident was brought to our attention, we immediately summoned the pastor and explained to him that what he was doing was not only unlawfully but was against religion.â€ said the national programmes officer.
Moyo said the council now insist on the training of prophets before a church is awarded a certificate to operate as a measure to curb or minimise child abuse.
A Johanne Wechishanu church child protection committee member, Rejoice Banda said since she attended child protection workshops organised by ACCZ, she has been very vocal on issues to do with child abuse and marrying of young brides in the church.
â€œUnlike what used to happen before, these days in our church we no longer allow prophets to conduct prayers in secluded places with girl or women without the presents of other people. During church sermons we now conscientising congregants on the dangers of early pregnancies and marriages â€œsaid Banda.
According to Moyo incidences of child abuses in Matabeleland areÂ Â most prevalent in Binga, Nkayi and St Peters settlement on the outskirts of Bulawayo.Post published in: Featured