Friday, 4 July 2008

Advocacy for the people of Zimbabwe - continue to pray

ENI has reported on the German government having brought pressure to bear on the private company which had been providing the bank notes fuelling Zimbabwe's rampant 164,000% inflation rate:

"We are delighted that the printing company Giesecke & Devrient has taken into account the concerns of ecumenical organizations and civil society," the Rev. Michael Wallace, general secretary of the WSCF, told Ecumenical News International on 2 July. "The money printed had been helping to prop up the ruling elite of an illegitimate regime, who are using it to crush ordinary Zimbabweans." Wallace said that the action of the company showed how Christian groups working with civil society could play an effective role in bringing about justice."

Meanwhile Simon Barrow has an excellent piece in his latest Wardman Wire on how politics needs grace as well as power. It ends with some of his reminiscences of visits to the WCC Assembly in Harare ten years ago by Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela:

"During Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in London and elsewhere, many people shared moments of encounter with him that made a lasting impact on them. I will conclude with mine. Ten years ago I was in Harare, Zimbabwe, attending the 9th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches. Two figures were mandatory for the occasion, conducted in a large assembly hall holding five thousand people. One was a speech by the president and the other was a visit by Madiba, as Mr Mandela is affectionately known by his people.
Mugabe arrived with a phalanx of armoured vehicles, and an air of great self-importance as he marched to the front. He was greeted with restrained applause (polite, verging on the cold) and proceeded to give a lengthy, humourless, haranguing speech. It went down badly and neatly summarised the demagogic tragedy that was already well and truly enfolding Zimbabwe.
Nelson Mandela arrived, at the beginning of the session, with a couple of modest bodyguards. He chatted and greeted people informally as he walked down the aisle and was received with a standing ovation, whoops of joy and spontaneous singing. He spoke for around 15 minutes, but somehow made everyone there feel that they were being personally addressed. He said that he was grateful to his missionary educators for instilling a sense of justice in him and to the WCC for its strong commitment against apartheid. He would, he said, have come to give these thanks earlier, “but, as you will understand, I was unavoidably detained” – a reference to 27 years on Robben Island.
“When I came out of prison”, he said (I am quoting from memory, rather than from a text), “an attractive young woman came up and threw her arms around me. Then she stood back and looked hard at me. ‘Madiba’, she said. ‘You used to be young and handsome. Now you are old and not so attractive!’ … I imagine that you may well be thinking something like this too, as I stand before you many years after I had wished to. But I am sure you will be a bit more polite, and not express your feelings so directly!”
It was a delightfully self-deprecating (but also rather knowing) moment. The journalist sitting next to me, who could not usually be accused of lacking cynicism, leaned over and observed, “If more leaders could have just a fraction of this naked humanity, politics might feel very different.” Quite."

The Lutheran World Federation, whose general secretary Ishmael Noko comes from Zimbabwe have issued a very strong statement at their recent council meeting in Arusha Tanzania:
"We especially denounce the systematic, organized, politically-motivated intimidation and violence whereby the current government has sought to retain power. We note that the perpetrators of that intimidation and violence have not hesitated to target church leaders and clergy, as well as opposition party leaders and members, media representatives, academics, specific groups within Zimbabwean society, and anyone thought to have voted for the opposition in the 29 March elections. The attacks on Zimbabweans for exercising their right of democratic choice are directly contrary to the purpose of the struggle for Zimbabwe’s liberation from colonial rule."

The LWF is also calling on its member churches to have a day of prayer for peace with justice for Zimbabwe and its people this Sunday July 6th.

The photo shows campaigners at an ecumenical prayer vigil for Zimbabwe at the end of June outside the UN in Geneva. Copyright (c) Peter Williams/ WCC.