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Dedicate Sunday to the suffering

IN a world in which torture is an everyday occurrence, the United Nations has set aside one day, June 26 each year, as their day in support of victims of torture.

In Bulawayo in recent years, victims of to

rture and organised violence have been offered the sanctity of the church in which to testify, so that others may stand side by side with them and share their tales of horror. The current government has been responsible for tens of thousands of human rights abuses, including more than 10 000 murders of unarmed civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s, and most recently, the illegal and heartless evictions known as Operation Murambatsvina, which the UN itself estimates affected over two million people.

School children are out of school and go to bed hungry in this cold winter because their parents have been driven into poverty.

Last week also saw the commemoration of World Refugee Day. Again, this day has become one that resonates for Zimbabweans. The government itself acknowledges that its profligate policies have driven more than two million fellow Zimbabweans out into the international wilderness, where they live in great hardship, suffer discrimination as makwerekweres and exploitation as illegals.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that I react to the fact that church services will this weekend be held, not in solidarity with torture victims and refugees, but in the presence of their perpetrators.

The church should be a refuge and a safe haven for those who have been tortured and abandoned. It is this government that continues to torture and abuse people, and to give impunity to those responsible. This government has no heart for the suffering of its people, and church leadership should be aware that to join in solidarity with those who have caused such great suffering leaves many victims feeling betrayed.

It is not for President Mugabe to recommit this country to God, as is being suggested by some church leadership. God will judge on an individual basis, who is and who is not committed to Him; God will judge us all by our actions and not by our words.

Those church leaders standing with the president at this time, argue that dialogue is necessary for progress and a return to normality in Zimbabwe.

But this government has given no indication of a willingness to engage in real dialogue. Church leaders nationally and internationally and African heads of state have been trying to talk meaningfully with this government for years. Church leadership should be very cautious therefore in sharing a platform with perpetrators who so far have made no concessions and no confessions to their people. They may sacrifice their own credibility for no return.

Here I would like to quote Pope John Paul II who reminded us in a message on the World Day of Peace, January 26, 1997:

“Forgiveness, far from precluding the truth, actually requires it. The evil which has been done must be acknowledged and as far as possible corrected…. Another essential prerequisite for forgiveness and reconciliation is justice, which finds its ultimate foundation in the law of God…Forgiveness neither eliminates nor lessens the need for reparation which justice requires, but seeks to reintegrate individuals and groups into society, and states into the community of nations.”

In my belief, there is a need for the leadership of this country to admit the full and honest truth of the crimes it has committed against its fellow Zimbabweans, to be subjected to a process of justice for these crimes and those who have suffered must have reparation for their losses. Only then can Zimbabwe as a nation begin the process of reconciliation with the past and look to a brighter future blessed by God.

I appeal to those church leaders who feel as I do, to dedicate their Sunday services this weekend to the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans left homeless a year ago by the heartless and illegal actions of this government — and to all the others who have suffered cruelty and death at their hands through the decades.

Archbishop Pius Alec Ncube,


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