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  • The Zimbabwe We Want: "Towards a National Vision for Zimbabwe" - Index of articles

  • Church leaders ask for forgiveness, call for reconciliation to heal Zimbabwe
    Associated Press
    October 29, 2006

    HARARE, Zimbabwe Church leaders implored Christian worshippers on Sunday to commit themselves to open debate and reconciliation to heal Zimbabwe's "dire" political and economic state.

    Leaders of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Evangelical Fellowship said they also asked for forgiveness for failing the nation as it slid into what they called "a sense of national despair and loss of hope."

    In a report to congregations across the country whose population is 80 percent Christian, the clerics said principles of peace, justice, forgiveness and honesty had degenerated and even some church leaders "have been accomplices in some of the evils that have brought our nation to this condition."

    "Clearly we did not do enough as churches to defend these values and raise an alarm at the appropriate time," they said. "We confess we have failed because we have not been able to speak with one voice."

    The report, calling for a new "national vision," said churches only now were beginning to wake up to their role in healing six years of social, political and economic turmoil.

    "In the short term, this involves engaging the government with the purpose of helping to end the present crisis and quickly return the nation to some normalcy," the report said.

    Church leaders asked their countrymen, including those in political office, to collectively reflect on "our dire national situation and the toll it is having ... on our families, the future of our children and of our nation."

    The churches sought to foster free debate on issues such as the need for reforms in draconian security and media laws, freedom of expression and tolerance along with constitutional reform to protect human rights and curb powers both of the government and President Robert Mugabe.

    "Political intolerance has unfortunately become a culture in Zimbabwe. The trading of insults, violence with impunity, lawlessness and hate speech" were characteristic of the country's political life.

    Corruption and skewed economic policies plunged the majority of Zimbabweans into poverty and led to an upsurge in racial and cultural intolerance that marginalized minorities and other social groups.

    Corruption was endemic and mostly involved people in positions of responsibility, the church leaders said.

    They said while colonial era land ownership imbalances needed to be corrected, the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms since 2000 was plagued by mismanagement, the destruction of property and farming equipment and disruptions in agricultural production that led to "an unrelenting downward spiral and economic meltdown."

    "The whole land issue regrettably has resulted in the emergence of a culture of racial hatred and the alienation of people along racial lines," the report said.

    Reconciliation was needed because without it, "society loses a sense of its values and integrity and drifts into a state of chaos," the report said.

    Following alleged abuses of democratic and human rights since 2000, the nation should now also consider the possibility of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the collaboration of churches to heal the aggrieved, the report said.

    Zimbabwe is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980 with acute shortages of hard currency, food, gasoline, essential imports and medicines.

    Official inflation is more than 1,000 percent, the highest rate in the world.

    According to United Nations officials, at least 1.4 million Zimbabweans will need emergency food aid before the next harvests in April and many impoverished people in urban areas are already surviving on one meal or less a day.

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