By Rev Graham Shaw
AT the very beginning of the New Year we are conscious of a widespread sense of hopelessness, bordering on despair that prevails across the nation. The New Year is traditionally a time of
joy and eager expectation, but that is not the way most Zimbabweans feel in 2005.
Indeed it is difficult to recall a time when morale has ever been lower.
The sense of despondency in the nation is almost palpable. We observe that a huge number of our citizens have left the country and many of those who remain are actively seeking ways and means to join the vast diaspora — a sure sign that people have given up hope.
This pervading sense of hopelessness has much to do with the parliamentary election due to take place in March. The reason is not far to seek.
After their hopes were raised so high before the parliamentary elections of 2000 and again ahead of the presidential election of 2002, only to be cruelly dashed in both cases by the fraudulent results, it is as if Zimbabweans will not dare to hope for change this time around.
Given the ruling party’s track record of violence, lawlessness and deceit, and knowing their ruthless determination to hold onto power at whatever cost to the nation, few believe that the forthcoming elections will change anything.
Change is surely what most long for, yet now scarcely believe is possible — change to a system of entrenched power and political patronage in which those who rule no longer regard themselves as accountable to the people; change to a culture of intolerance and violence in which the ruling elite refuse to listen to another point of view and those who dare to dissent are abused and vilified without any legal recourse; change to a situation in which justice is no more because of a partisan judiciary, and the truth is not heard because of a conspiracy of silence among those who benefit from the unjust rule.
A radical change also to the policy of political expediency which has bankrupted the state and rendered half the population in need of donor food just to survive the next few months. In short, Zimbabweans long for an end to a stifling dictatorship and for the birth of freedom and democracy.
That the people long for radical change and a new beginning can hardly be disputed.
As with every oppressed people in history, freedom can be suppressed for a while but the desire for freedom cannot ever be totally eradicated. And this is so quite simply because the Creator intended humankind to be free and planted that desire deep in the human heart.
The moral laws of the universe work against those who subvert the freedom of others for their own selfish ends, and in favour of those who work to set free the victims of oppression and injustice.
Yet fear and a sense of hopelessness have deadened that desire for freedom in our land. The real tragedy is that our people have ceased to believe that change is possible any longer. Many pious Christians take refuge in the belief that change will only come through a decisive intervention of God, for which they wait passively — overlooking the simple fact that our saving God intends that we ourselves should be the agents of his liberating grace.
We pray “Deliver us from evil”, yet fail to realise that the God who longs to set us free from the chains of oppression, beckons us to join him in a partnership in which evil is named, confronted and finally overthrown.
Of course one of the reasons many prefer to wait for God to act is that to be an agent of God’s change can be a painful experience. Easier by far, and certainly safer, to wait, arms folded, for the saviour to intervene. Hence today the spectacle of many Christians sitting back and waiting, and even — dare we say it -— using their prayers as a safe alternative to costly engagement in the fierce struggle for freedom!
Not so our Lord of course who never tried to dodge the way of the Cross, and whose prayers led him, not to safety but deeper into sacrificial self-giving. So he won for us by his death upon the Cross, freedom both from the power of sin and the consequences of sin. The shackles of Satan and the chains of hell were smashed for ever.
Therefore we need not despair. The wicked may prosper and the righteous may suffer today; there is nothing new about that. The godless may triumph for a while — and all around us we see the appalling consequences of their godless rule — but in the end we know that evil will destroy itself, the righteous will be vindicated and the love, the justice and the peace of God shall prevail. This much is guaranteed by the empty tomb of our saviour.
In the memorable words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
“Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
and victory is ours through Him
who loves us.”
The end is guaranteed, yet ironically if we are ever to prove it, we must be willing to die for this truth. And when the church comes to this point, then indeed we shall be able to lead the nation from despair to hope.
Rev Graham Shaw,
Christians Together for
Justice and Peace,