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Christianity need not be official religion

I WISH to respond to last week’s article by Sanderson Makombe on the role of Christianity in Zimbabwe’s constitution-making process. In the article, the author seems to suggest that it would not be proper to declare Christianity as the country’s official religion.

First, as a point of correction, both the NCA draft and the 2000 draft have a clause that acknowledges the supremacy of God “and not of the Lord”. The Kariba draft also speaks of the supremacy of God and not of “the Lord”. That acknowledgment does not in any way imply the Christian God although among Christians, there is belief in only one true God. 

Makombe wrote: “… It could be very true that Christianity is the dominant religion in Zimbabwe. That fact however does not in itself qualify Zimbabwe as a Christian nation. Neither does the inclusion of the proclamation of the supremacy of the Lord in the Kariba draft. To have a nation founded in a particular religion means that that particular religion is the primary and probably the sole basis upon which a national government exists and is structured.”

It would help discussions of this nature if people understood what Christianity really is. Christianity is not per se the lifestyle or beliefs of people who claim to be Christians. It goes beyond individual Christian beliefs and lifestyles. Christianity is a way of life, based on the word of God that took or veiled itself with a human body, which we call Jesus Christ. A careful reading of the bible shows that Jesus Christ is the word of God that took a human form. So Christianity is the fullness of the word of God finding expression and application in the life of a person.

When the word of God is fully in you, and you live and practice what it says, aided by the spirit of God, then you are a Christian. If you are full of hatred, anger, murderous intents, lust, greed and other evil vices, no matter your claim to be a Christian, you are yet to become one in the way you live. The word of God is yet to take its grip on you and in your heart. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

I therefore take the view, like Makombe, that Christianity should not be forced on the country as a national religion. Christianity has never been an issue of force or violence, but one of individual choices. That is why even up to this day in places where it is properly practised people are free to become Christians, renounce it, and even oppose it. If it is the collective desire of Zimbabweans to adopt Christianity as the official religion, it is good enough. But it does not end there. It creates the responsibility on us Zimbabweans to practise what we claim to believe. 

I do believe however, and strongly so, that a Godly foundation is key to any constitution-making process. We are talking of a national constitution, “the supreme law of the land”, from which every law, institution, office, and national conduct derives its authority. One thing that we must always remember as a people is that whatever we build, we build on the strength of a foundation. The Lancaster House constitution was intended to transfer power from the colonial government to a popularly elected government. Now that power has effectively been transferred, that constitution has ceased to be relevant. The 2000 constitution-making process was embarked on, partly because of pressure on the government, partly because the current constitution was outdated, partly with a view to “democratise” the country. All these foundations were not strong enough and the process failed.

Currently, we are engaged in a constitution-making process because the GPA says we must do so. But beyond the GPA, we need to have a better foundation upon which we draft a new constitution. We need through the constitution to define who we are, where we come from and are going, what our aspirations are, and the legacy we need to bequeath to our children after us, among many other things. I take the view that, instead of forcing Christianity in the constitution as an official religion, unless if people choose to do so, we need to craft our constitution based on a Godly foundation and no less.

Barnabas Muchanyerei,

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