Christian advocacy organisation facilitating the Church’s visibility and audibility on matters of governance – Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) – last Friday made a beeline for Chegutu under the Churches Convergence on Peace (CCOP) banner and set up a local peace committee to bring the people together as the nation reels off a topsy-turvy election season.
The church unison, officered by outspoken cleric Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, triumphantly conducted a workshop on the importance of peace at Ameva Bible College in Ward 23 of the small Mashonaland West town, an effort that was embraced by an overwhelming engagement by the locales.
The overall purpose of the seminar was to enhance a community-based discourse on tolerating divergence views, conflict resolution, healing each other, reconciliation, and eventually put in place a convocation team that will see the maintenance of the aforementioned objectives.
Among the attendees were Chiefs, village heads, counsellors, the police, churches, school pupils and representatives from those living with disabilities and HIV/AIDS.
The seminar design was based on a mix of lectures, exercises, readings and mostly listening to what the local people have to say.
Considering how politics usually build riffs for citizens, it was a golden moment to witness various community stakeholders engage, with integrity and credibility, in a freewheeling candid dialogue where ethnicity, religious or political affiliation was not an exception.
Speaking during the affair, ZDD Projects Director Shadrack Chaparadza said that the paucity of peace in Zimbabwe has even debilitated the economy and has driven many Zimbabweans to seek economic refuge elsewhere.
He said unless the country stops making peace a social contraband, people will continue to muddle in the same doldrums.
“Zimbabwe, with all its literacy, are looking for greener pastures in countries with fewer mineral gems,” said the youthful director, “I realised that something is wrong with our country and until Zimbabweans come to a point where we realise we need not play the blame game now and fix our country to make it a peaceful nation to live in, we will continue going to South Africa and be enslaved to old age.”
“Where there is no harmony God withholds his blessing. Let’s deal with peace and violence at a local level,” he continued.
A native clergy, Pastor Gama, also shared the same sentiment, saying God has so many things for those who cohabit harmoniously.
“Behind people’s unity and peace, there is so much the Lord has for us.”
As there is still a strong impulse in the rural areas to view peace-making initiatives only as political, a local counsellor asked on the political stance of the local peace committee and if it will not annex the roles of the local government.
Responding, Mr Chaparadza, said the task force which will be made up by all representatives from major and minor groups in the society, will not meddle with the day-to-day business of the respective authorities, rather, it will work hand-in-glove with them to augment the social fabric long blotted by political storms.
“We are not interrupting any existing status quo. We are just adding value to it,” said Chaparadza.
In an interview on the sidelines of the workshop, visiting Danish Church Aid Programme Director, Ms Cecilie Bjornskov-Johansen, said the cooperation and engagement of the people in Chegutu impressed her.
“I’m very impressed by the session I’ve just joined. I see people, even if they have a violent history in this part of Zimbabwe, who seems to be really wanting to come together to talk, to have a dialogue. They seem very very engaged. I do not understand the local language but I could see from their body language that they want this. I know it’s the very beginning of this project, it’s a long process that we would have to engage in but it’s a very good start.”
The director who last made a call in the country nearly three decades ago said peace is a crucial thing as it contributes to the development of the world and that churches and communities should join hands to make it a real thing.
“It’s crucial (peace), not only to Dan Church; I think to all who want development in the world. It’s crucial that we live in peace. We have hope that we can look forward to continuing to bring development and we can thrive in our lives. So, basically, if we don’t have peace, if conflicts are thriving, we cannot develop.
So, it’s really really important part of all developmental work and I think that churches, priests, and communities should come together in this that we are doing.”
Asked to draw comparisons on the peace vs violence climates in Zimbabwe as juxtaposed to her ordeals in other conflicting states, Ms Bjornskov-Johansen said the fons et origo of conflicts are homogeneous everywhere.
“I think to a greater extent, conflicts come from the same problems. The roots are the same if we’re in Zimbabwe, South Sudan, or if we’re in any other countries in Africa and the world.
So, we need peace with ourselves as individuals; we need peace in our marriages; with our neighbours, with our communities. So, if we don’t have that peace, it’s really really difficult to have that dialogue at higher levels. So, in that sense, making peace, coming together, it’s the same approaches, it’s the same tools and the same hopes we have whether we are in Zimbabwe or are in any other countries.”
The Director wound up by urging the Churches Convergence on Peace members (Zimbabwe Divine Destiny, Zimbabwe Churches Alliance, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and all the churches to continue setting forth the lantern of peace, healing and reconciliation.
“Keep on hanging, there is hope. Keep on the good dialogue and even in very difficult times remember were all a creation of God and that we all seek the same happiness and peace in our lives. So continue even in times that are really difficult,”
Read more on the Church Convergence on Peace here: Mashonaland West, A Hotbed of Political Violence Welcomes Churches Convergence on Peace & Sign Peace Pledge
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