On April 4, the Southern African Bishops’ Conference came out with a statement on the situation in Zimbabwe. Meant to coincide with the Easter season, the Bishops bring out the various forms of suffering of their brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe and the impending disaster if things don’t change. They recall their own suffering under apartheid and call for Catholics of South Africa to pray in a special way during the masses of Easter season for a resolution to the problems of their neighbors. They ask especially…
…They ask especially for a change of heart for Zimbabwe’s ‘elites.’
AFJN welcomes the support of the Bishops of South Africa. What is
regrettable is that they did not call their own government to be more
active in confronting President Mugabe. In our opinion, the government
of South Africa has been far too solicitous of the President of
Zimbabwe over the past few years. That tactic is one that is open to
discussion. However, in these last few months as the opposition has
been brutally beaten and imprisoned, the silence of the South Africans
and other neighbors has been inexcusable.
STATEMENT OF THE
SOUTHERN AFRICAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE ON THE CRISIS IN ZIMBABWE
The people of Zimbabwe
are suffering. They are frustrated and hungry. An elite of their own people is
oppressing them and denying them the most basic human rights. The majority of
the population is living in abject poverty. Unemployment is over 80%. The
public health, education and transport systems are falling apart.
Several million have fled their homes in Zimbabwe for neighbouring Southern
African Countries further robbing their own country of important skills and
Frustration and hunger coupled with a sense of powerlessness to do
anything about it forms a very dangerous situation and undermines the stability
of the country further. Any signs of a mass uprising by the people
engender new fears in the ruling elite and these fears lead to ever-increasing
oppression and to state-sanctioned violence. When public demonstrations
are brutally suppressed there is a distinct danger that those who suffer will
see violence as the only resource left to them. This will inevitably result in
the loss of life and destruction of property.
We, the Bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference,
believe in Zimbabwe.
We believe in its people and their potential. We believe that this potential
can still be realised by those in authority sitting down in the same room with
representatives of all sectors of Zimbabwean society to develop a new
constitution. This Constitution will form the basis for a new democracy.
Totally free and transparently fair elections will then be possible. We
strongly support the efforts of the Church Leaders in Zimbabwe to
bring about dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation.
If this is to happen there needs to be a
radical change of heart in the leaders of Zimbabwe. We recall what God
said through the Prophet Ezekiel: “I shall remove the heart of stone from
their bodies and give them a heart of flesh” (Ez. 11.19). We ask our God
to work this wonder for his people in Zimbabwe.
Therefore, we plead with all Catholics and people of Goodwill to make
this their special prayer during the Easter season so that the joy of Easter
may be shared by all the people of Zimbabwe. We ask that St. Francis’
Prayer for Peace be recited at the conclusion of the Prayers of the Faithful at
every Mass during the month of April. We did this in the final years of
apartheid and we know how God worked a miracle for us. He will work a
similar miracle for Zimbabwe
in answer to the millions of voices raised up to Him in humility and in faith.
We also request that charity, tolerance and compassion be extended to
all Zimbabweans who have sought refuge in neighbouring Southern African
Countries many in South Africa
were political refugees and were welcomed, comforted and supported by the
people of the region.
for Peace in Southern Africa
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to
consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI
Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference