Oskar wermter sj citizenship, conscience and the common good



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CITIZENSHIP, CONSCIENCE, AND THE COMMON GOOOD

ESSAYS 2013 - 2015

OSKAR WERMTER SJ

CITIZENSHIP, CONSCIENCE AND THE COMMON GOOD

Foreword

I am so proud and thankful to God that I count Father Oskar Wermter as one of my close friends. Over the years, he has taught me a lot about what it is to be a Christian. I have had the privilege to work with him on one or two projects and have over the years counted him as one of my role models. When he left his native Germany, as a Jesuit priest, he came only with one aim – to serve God among the people of Zimbabwe, and he is doing just that.

In 1980 the joy and euphoria of independence from British colonialism, and its evils did not last for long. After two years the Matebeland Gukurahundi massacres which claimed over 20,000 lives of innocent men women and children tore the country apart. After a short respite things began to go awfully wrong culminating in the Murambatsvina brutality when houses were destroyed and families left homeless and destitute. This was followed by the unplanned and equally brutal and corrupt, so-called land reform programme. This caused Zimbabwe, which used to be the breadbasket of the region, to become a virtual pauper with its elite young people fleeing to other countries for survival. And, all this is happening under a corrupt, brutal and un-accountable totalitarian regime led by people who loudly claim to be Christians!

As he lived with the people Father Wermter saw it all through the eyes of a dedicated Christian and reacted like a true prophet. He recorded and declared the truth as he saw it, which is what is in this book. These are not “priestly spiritual exhortations” but the practical teachings of Jesus Christ as they apply to real life. He talks about what it means to be a Christian and sums it up as standing up for the poor in love and demanding justice for the oppressed without compromise. His public rebukes have caused many Zimbabwean Christians to examine their consciences and to reflect upon their own faith and lives. Instead of asking people to come to church, Father Wermter brought the church to the people.

Father Wermter talks about the role of wealth in a community, the rule of law, the need for accountability, the dangers of power and the relationship between the Church and the state. About these, he says both are independent and autonomous and at the service of the people with the Church being the moral conscience of the nation. He also warns the people about the many false prophets leading many to destruction today. He even talks about a Christian’s responsibility towards caring for the environment which is a gift from God.

As I re-read these essays, for the purpose of writing this foreword, I felt encouraged and rejuvenated to confidently continue on my own Christian journey. Thank you Father Wermter, ndinotenda.

Pius Wakatama

NEWSDAY

POVERTY WILL SAVE THE CHURCH

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

The Church is not listed on the stock exchange. The Church does not buy and sell. She is not maximizing profits. If a particular church is aiming primarily at making money, for herself, her leaders or members in general, it is not a church at all, but a business.

The aim and objective of the Church is to share God’s message and gifts of the spirit with the people. This divine treasure is the end, visible structures like staff, buildings, finance are merely means, or tools for the achievement of that end.

If in a church accumulating money becomes the end, the aim and objective of all activity, then the members are no longer worshipping God, but “Mammon” ( Aramaic for ‘wealth’, see Mat.6: 24), which is an idol or false god. Finance and all other assets must remain tools. They must not become an end in itself.

The situation is paradoxical. The Church needs money and yet must shun wealth as the devil the holy water.

The old missionaries had their families and friends to ask for donations for the “missions”. Now they are largely gone, so the people have to learn what it really costs to run a rural mission school or a hospital. And what is more: they are to pay for it themselves. Some of us find full responsibility more difficult to handle than dependence.

Not that this is anything new. That little band of Jesus’ disciples did not live on thin air. “Eat and drink what is offered to you for the labourer is worth his payment,” Jesus advised them. And yet he warned against greed and accumulating wealth (“Blessed are the poor”: Lk 6: 20. The Parable of the Rich Fool : Luke 12: 16 -21 . The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19 -31, and many more). But even among his own followers there was a thief.

Jesus was not a clever fundraiser. He praised the widow who gave a tiny coin which was all she had, and lambasted the Pharisees who undoubtedly paid their tithe (10 % of their income) and were proud of keeping the law to the letter. He was not destitute though , since some well-to-do women among his followers “provided for them out of their resources” (Luke 8: 3).

In the early Christian community in Jerusalem the more prosperous members shared what they had with the widows and orphans; and Paul collected for charity in rich Greek cities on behalf of the not so well-off brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Paul of course was almost unique: he was a self-supporting craftsman who asked for little or nothing at all.

When the Church and her leaders get too comfortable they lose touch with the poor. They are no longer concerned about justice, the common good, sharing God’s blessings with everyone and protecting the dignity of all of God’s children, including those of low status.

Again and again in the life of the Church people have gone back to Jesus who “had nowhere to lay his head” and was close to the poor and despised in society. Francis of Assisi, son of a rich businessman, and his brothers and sisters saved the Church from her wealth and corruption when they followed in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth. Their simple lifestyle healed the Church made sick by greed and selfishness. Wealth engenders jealousy and envy in people’s heart. The Franciscan movement restored the Church as a welcoming, loving community of brothers and sisters. The poverty and simplicity of genuine followers of Christ leaves no room for barriers of arrogance and pride. But it gives space to love and compassion, and new impetus to community living.

Arthur Cripps, the Anglican priest who loved the poor just like Francis and walked long distances on foot around “Maronda Mashanu” , and John Bradburne who lived with the leprosy patients in Mutemwa/Mutoko, have shown by their lifestyles more clearly what the Church is all about than many preachers and prophets. Dr Elizabeth Tarira who served her poor rural patients suffering from AIDS, TB, Malaria and Cancer was buried next to her mission hospital because even in death she could not abandon the people she loved.

A church welcoming the poor as Christ did deserves to be supported by her members. This is the important point : when we give a donation we give it to the community of the Church, not to the minister as if he owned the church. We do not recognize in a church, that merely benefits a self-made church leader, the Church of Christ. Seeking riches makes us self-centred, sharing builds community.

Every congregation must have a finance committee, and the minister must not act in financial matters without their consent. The Church, not some individual, receives all incoming contributions and decides on the stipend the minister receives. The honesty and integrity of all officials handling church funds is vital for the well-being of the Church. Members cannot be expected to make donations unless they have complete confidence in the transparency of all financial transactions.

Every congregation has among its members professional financial administrators and should make use of them, rather than leave finance entirely in the hands of the minister. “The worker deserves his wages,” but he should not ‘build bigger barns to store his wealth’ (Lk. 12).

Financial irregularities, corruption, bribery and theft are a disease corrupting the whole nation. The Church can do a great service to the people of Zimbabwe by getting rid of all forms of corruption in her own ranks, thus teaching the nation as a whole by example.

Citizens of Zimbabwe are deploring official thievery causing misery for many. Public denunciations alone will not transform our society. But our acting with integrity might have an impact. Or are we members of the Church merely for greater economic security, better education and prosperity, with no regard for the Gospel?

We should pray, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, lest being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30: 8). What we want is inner freedom. “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance,” Paul wrote to the community in Philippi (Phil. 4: 12). And if we happen to have plenty we know how to share with the starving. We can let go. We are not attached, or tied down, to anything, or obsessed with grabbing more and more.

We need such freedom in the Church and such free spirits in our society.

NEWSDAY

WHEN VICTIMS BECOME PERPETRATORS

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Everybody loves a baby. It is so cute. Aunts and uncles – all want to hug it. Actually, it is a selfish little brat. Lovable as the little one may be, he behaves like a mini-tyrant with his yelling and screaming. Thinking he is the centre of the universe, he needs to be cut down to size within the family and community. Above all, a child has to learn how to share with others, food for instance. There is a saying, “The whole village brings up a child”. A child who accepts no social limits will bully us all.

The political class terrorizes us with such shameless selfishness that you might think they are essentially cry-babies who have never learnt how to fit into a family or community. Child psychologists tell us that the character of a person is formed before age seven. A child that has not been “socialized” before that crucial date will remain a selfish monster who claims everything for himself and is not prepared to share the goods of this earth with her brothers and sisters.

Our leading politicians claim special privileges for their part in the war of liberation. They see themselves as victims of colonialism and the war that put an end to it. Victims want compensation. Victims expect the world to look after them for the rest of their lives. A person with a victim’s mentality is forever complaining and is never satisfied. Victimhood is a mental and spiritual disease. Victims often do not accept responsibility for themselves and have forever an enemy whom they can blame and hold responsible for their own failures. Victims will never make peace with their opponents. They will not let go of their old enemies just in case they need them as whipping boys. Somehow the war has to go on so that the combatants keep their privileged position. Police are meant to preserve the peace. But we see them hit at citizens viciously.

This disease is quite widespread. At the height of apartheid and racial oppression the Boers used to remind each other of the Boer War when their wives and children perished in British concentration camps. When the rest of the world denounced South Africa as an enemy of human rights, many Afrikaners celebrated their gallant fighters who died in defending their homesteads against British inhumanity. People the world over were appalled when watching the bombing of Gaza; and yet many found it difficult to denounce the Israelis who after all are the victims of the Holocaust. We end in moral confusion when victims become perpetrators. Victims have seen it all. Their wounds still hurt. They should understand and be merciful.

Can “Gukurahundi” be justified as a defence against “colonialism” and the apartheid state? Do women and children of farm labourers have to have their huts incinerated and be made homeless, without protection from rain storms and floods, just because the “freedom fighters” identify them with their erstwhile enemies? What happened to fundamental human rights? Did the “fighters” not join the “struggle” precisely because they felt deprived of human dignity and wanted to restore respect for human rights?

Was Zimbabwe as a state built on consensus or on antagonism, on solidarity or enmity? I seem to remember a famous call for solidarity on the eve of Independence.

Now and then a fellow writer demands a new morality for Zimbabwe. Victims have seen much cruelty. They are still, deep down in their hearts, full of fear. They remember a time when they survived only by the power of a gun. They survived because they shot first. They still try to eliminate their opponents and any danger to their lives by “shooting first”. This is what they call “security”. They live in constant fear. They feel forever threatened. But even with a gun under the pillow they feel never “safe”, in fact they live in even greater fear.

We glorify armed violence because of the war. But weapons do not give real peace. When you need guns you are already in a state of war. America has millions of rifles. Will it ever achieve peace, and be a force for peace in the world? Only when they stop threatening each other with their arsenals of weapons in their bedrooms.

Old people tend to get stuck in the past. Veterans tend to reminisce about their heroic deeds and perpetuate the glory of war and bloodshed.

Look at little boys how they fight each other. We have to start with them to build a civilization of peace.

Our children have to learn to share their food, their sweets, their playthings and sports equipment. There is no joy unless we are all enjoying what is ours by sharing.

As long as the affluent burn and demolish the shacks of the poor their mansions and luxury flats will not be safe. But once we acknowledge that every family has the right to a home which is untouchable maybe peace is appearing on the horizon.

Hug your baby. It is lovable. A child that is loved will be able to love and respect his friends and companions. It should not grow up to be a thug, a victim thirsting for revenge. Can we convince our children that mutual respect, sharing our resources, and working together for the common good promise us a better future than their toy guns and computer war games?



WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, “COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON”?

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Time and again our praisesingers and bootlickers liken their idols to Christ. Mere human beings are being raised to a divine status. What foolishness for a mere mortal to claim divinity! Ancient Kings and Emperors were such fools. Tyrants expect to be worshipped with pseudo-religious rituals even today. This is blasphemy and arrogance.

We celebrate a new-born child. His message is exactly the opposite. The child is not born in a luxury mansion or royal palace, but in a cave, a shelter where the homeless hide. Instead of arrogance and pride there is humility and littleness. He does not want to be worshipped as an idol, but welcomed like a fellow human being, a child among children. Though of divine origin, he was born in human form (Phil. 2: 7).

Children are a most endangered species. They are massacred together with their mothers, their lifeless bodies tossed on rubbish heaps, they drown with their refugee parents crossing the sea. They are abused and injured for life. They are enslaved by human traffickers and humiliated in brothels. So our newscasts tell us relentlessly.

But in this child, who is as vulnerable as all children , God himself is present. That makes this child infinitely precious. The divine presence in this one child makes all children and all little ones infinitely precious.

If we have faith and welcome this child, we will have to welcome all children and all the little ones, those who “sit in the shadow of death” and are neglected in this life; who are born HIV positive and threatened by Ebola, by war and violence; who are neglected and despised for being of the ‘wrong’ tribe, colour or religion. Together with this one unique child born in that cave God makes all children his own. As such we have to welcome them, without discrimination.

“Every human being is entitled to respect for his/her life and to safety (art.4), and to respect for his/her dignity (art. 5),” says the African Charter on human and peoples’ rights. “Slavery, torture, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment are not allowed.”

If our leaders were driven by the desire to preserve the human dignity of us all, we would respect them, not as divine beings, but as truly human. If they were concerned about the life and well-being even of their opponents, we would recognize in them our common humanity. Tragically through their hate speech they deny that they are children of one and the same father.

The poverty and misery of our children and the unemployment and corrupting idleness of young men and women are not just the result of malfunctioning economics. These evils are caused by the moral blindness of those in power, and by their spiritual illiteracy.

The “festive season” is upon us. It used to be called “Christmas”, but it has been emptied of all meaning. It is a family feast, but the focus is no longer on that unique family. Commercialisation no longer allows the key biblical figures to appear. It’s a birthday, but we feel embarrassed to name the child. Instead we wish each other “Compliments of the Season”. What on earth is that supposed to mean?

Being loved means being precious and highly valued. If we are no longer precious like that child, we lose respect for human worth and the respect we owe one another, including self-respect. Without celebrating our humanity and its value, we will come to despise ourselves and one another. People will be turned into cheap fuel for the running of machines, for political and economic gain.

The birthday we are celebrating should bring about a rebirth of our humanity, and respect for one another as God’s children, and brothers and sisters of the Christchild.

His love for the little ones can be found in unexpected places. Believers of different faith communities may have sacred texts and traditions which speak of our humanity and how precious it is. Unbelievers are by no means without humanity. The spirit of the Creator can guide them too.

One concrete way of making this rebirth of our humanity manifest would be to stop drinking and driving, and killing ourselves on the battlefields of our corroded highways during the “festive season”.

We celebrate a birthday, and the child born is infinitely precious, as are all other children. No one is dispensable. No one is not worth the greatest possible care in preserving their lives.

As we celebrate new life let us protect the lives of all. May I suggest that we start with the lives of strangers and enemies whom we mostly pretend not to know. Let us not cringe in the dust before the high and mighty, but pick up the little ones and welcome them as fully human.



NEWSDAY

CHURCH AND STATE – ‘INDEPENDENT AND AUTONOMOUS’

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When the Church realized in 1980 that this country would at long last become a sovereign state ruled by a legitimate government the leaders of the Church reflected on the future relationship between Church und State. On the eve of Independence, April 17 1980, they published a statement which contained the following key passage, ”While the State and the Church are independent and autonomous in their own spheres, both are at the service of man [the human person]. …. The Church is not identified with any political community, nor is she bound to any political system. Rather, her function is to be the moral conscience of the nation, the sign and safeguard of the supreme value of the human person.” No doubt most Christians, regardless of denomination, could identify with these words of the Catholic bishops.

Only large parts of our “political class” seem to be unaware of these principal insights or in disagreement with them.

Again and again party-political zealots disregard the separation of Church and State, their different spheres, roles and responsibilities. In their rapacious hunger for power they want to swallow up religion so as to have total control about all aspects of life.

Worshipping their leader as demi-god they want to make him a priest-king, unassailable, beyond criticism, in possession of the country and its people, rather than servant of the people.

That is hardly a new idea. Most ancient societies, until recently most traditional societies gave their leaders this double role. They never knew that for the good of the people power must be limited, and to give a mortal individual every possible kind of power, secular and spiritual, leads to doom. In the ancient countries of Babylon, Mesopotamia, Assyria as well as Egypt priest-kings ruled. Rome, though first a republic ruled by a senate, deteriorated into a tyranny ruled by an emperor whom all citizens had to worship as a divine being. Needless to say, the empire was corrupted and decayed until it collapsed under the onslaught of new and more vigorous nations. Total power corrupts totally. We have been warned by history.

It is not only the leaders of the state who are tempted by secular, economic and political power. Even the so-called “men of God” (but what god?) are being tempted by getting for themselves a cut of state power. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we meet them as “court prophets” , praise singers of the kind who always told the king what he liked to hear even if it was gross lies and led to the destruction of the capital and the enslavememt of its citizens (in our own day there are frightening omens in the shape of foreign scripts at certain public places).

The genuine prophets who told God’s truth and warned the power-hungry against living lies were persecuted and ended up in misery and death. The last one, John the Baptist, was beheaded at the whim of an immoral, power-hungry woman.

Today we hear of pastors who like to call themselves ‘prophets’, singing the praises of the “political class” and prostituting themselves collectively to the “powers that be”. They hope to get a share in the power and glory of the Big Men and Women of the day. Elisha had no time for such false ‘colleagues’ of his and dispatched them unceremoniously (1 Kings 18 – one genuine prophet against 400 fake ones!).

Truly prophetic people live simple lives, are found among ordinary poor people and not in the king’s palaces. They do not mince their words and speak the truth (John the Baptist aroused the anger of Herodias when he denounced her marital escapades).

Does that mean that Church and State must necessarily be enemies? No. The statement of 17 April 1080 said , “The more [Church and State] cooperate the more effectively will they serve the good of all citizens.” Such cooperation rests on mutual respect between Church and State. This is lacking at present. The leaders play with religion as another toy in the power game.

“Citizens should not make excessive demands on the government for benefits, thereby lessening their own personal and social responsibility” (Statement ZCBC, 17 April 1980).

In 1980 that was a truly prophetic word.

THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES OF “HEALING PRAYER ONLY”

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When one of our students did not turn up for the new term we wanted to know what was the matter with him and were shocked to learn the 13 year old bright and promising boy had died. We wanted to know why. Gradually I was able to piece the story together. For a long time the boy, rather short for his age, but a good student always at the top of the class, had complained about chest pains and suffered from occasional fainting fits.

His mother wanted to take him to the mission hospital, but the father, a staunch ‘mupostore’, strictly forbade her to take him to our Indian lady doctor. He got worse, and the mother, though a ‘mupostore’ herself, decided to defy her husband.

The doctor who had known the child as one of the students from a distance, but had never had a chance to give him a proper medical check-up, came to me almost in tears: the child had a very severe heart condition, probably from birth. Had she seen him a year ago surgery might have saved him, but now it was too late. He would not survive an operation. The mother took him home, deeply distressed. He died three weeks later and never came back to school where he had excelled and been happy.

Not for the first, and she knew, not for the last time, the doctor had lost the silent battle with the bearded, bald men. Personally I had nothing against them. I knew that Apostolic Faith members were admirable in one respect: they were very good craftsmen. Independent-minded, they did not seek employment, but produced household goods like tin water basins, buckets and baskets and made a good living by selling them to their rural neighbours. Clive Dillon-Malone told the story of these old-type “vapostore” in his scholarly study “The Korsten Basket Makers”.

The nurses in our mission hospital tried very hard to convince mothers even in “vapostore” villages why their little ones needed to be vaccinated, and they came back happy when they had succeeded at least with some, thus saving lives. When visiting hospital wards nowadays I am surprised how many patients say without embarrassment that they are “vapostore vaYowane Mazowe”.

I remember giving a dignified old ‘mupostore’ a lift, and we had an interesting discussion about the Bible. ‘Vapostore’ like the wisdom books of the Old Testament because the Hebrew proverbs appeal to them as similar to the tsumo/shumo (ancestral wisdom) of their own tradition. Altogether the ‘vapostore’ are traditionalists. They do not like “n’anga” - why? Because they have taken over the role of “n’anga” themselves. Their entire religion is about healing. Which is why even mainstream Christians go and seek their prayers secretly after nightfall.

Are ‘vapostore’ Christians? Inus Daneel, a theologian and social scientist, defended their African form of Christianity fervently. They see in Jesus primarily a physical healer. But Jesus is more. He came to be saviour of the world and transform us all through his self-giving love. Daneel tried to teach his bearded friends some basic theology and engage them in Bible studies so as to make them true shepherds of their followers, thus making sense of their shepherd’s’ staffs.

The moral and spiritual message of Christ seems to be neglected at least in parts of the ‘apostolic’ movement , or else they would not force immature little girls into sexual slavery. Where outright injustice is being done to girls and women, society has a duty to confront male oppressors with the demands of human dignity and human rights of women.

The endless succession battles among the leaders of the Apostolic Faith movement contribute much to its decline. Descent from the right ancestral line and the original founder-prophet is more important to many than competence as knowledgeable teachers and preachers of Scripture. Break-away groups led by poorly instructed leaders proliferate.

The Church will always be engaged in the work of healing, both body and soul, and will continue the healing work of Jesus in healthcare and hospitals. But healers in the Church, as the healing hands of Christ, also have to heal sick minds and spiritual and moral illness.

That ‘vapostore’ forbid the use of scientific medicine, insisting on healing through prayer alone, comes from a poor knowledge of Christian doctrine. Making use of a modern doctor, his pharmaceutical knowledge and surgical skills, is not a refusal to accept God’s healing power. Our doctors are not rivals of the divine healer. The Creator has given us intelligence and skills, medicinal plants and chemical substances with a healing effect. If we are using these gifts we merely carry out what the Creator is instructing us to do. Christ our healer is healing with the hands of doctors and nurses, using their brains and compassionate hearts.

I have seen notes in hospital wards put up by nurses, saying “We give treatment, God cures”. Exactly. A good surgeon, humbly acknowledging the limits of what he or she can do, may well say a silent prayer as he scrubs for a difficult operation, knowing full well that he works in tandem, as it were, with the divine healer. But precisely for that reason doctors will endeavour to give quality service and exhaust all that science has to offer. If you are aware that you are doing God’s work you cannot do less.

Another reason why the Apostolic Faith movement forbids the use of modern medicine may be more sinister. Their alleged healing power through prayer as specially gifted ‘prophets’ gives them social power over their followers and other clients. If the ‘vapostore’ claim a monopoly as healers, who can afford to ignore them or disdain their services?

When I once approached a group of ‘vapostore’ clutching a camera they got angry and chased me away. But maybe pastors of other Christian churches should make contact with their white-robed colleagues and find out more about them, without cameras or a threatening attitude. Some might be ready for peaceful dialogue.

NEWSDAY

IF THE LAW PROVES USELESS THROW IT AWAY

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When in 2005 “illegal structures” that 700 000 Zimbabweans called “home” were demolished by police and army, the authorities claimed that they had to take this outrageous action out of respect for the Law.

The international community took a different view. The UN report on the ‘Operation Restore Order’ (‘Murambatsvina’) said, “ Operation Restore Order, while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks. ……The Government of Zimbabwe should set a good example and adhere to the rule of law before it can credibly ask its citizens to do the same.”

But this call made little difference. Nine years later Zimbabwean citizens are once more fearing for the roofs over their heads. Once more officials claim that they have to take these brutal measures of demolishing shelters and turning their occupants into persons “without fixed abode” and “fixed income” because it is the “Law”.

If the “Law” is having such terrible effects we must ask: what is the Law? Who has created it? Who is responsible for it? Who applies it? Why do we have to obey it? What is its authority?

There are basic human rights which merely spell out our fundamental right to life and liberty. Such fundamental rights go together with our basic human dignity which is “given” to us simply because we are human. It is not a privilege bestowed upon us by human agents.

One such right is spelled out in the ‘African Charter on human and peoples’ rights’: “all people have the right to a satisfactory environment in which they can develop” (article 24). Surely this includes basic shelter. Being forced to live in the open as a homeless person, without being offered alternative accommodation, is surely a breach of this basic rule. Our Constitution of 2013 says that “the State….must ….enable every person to have access to adequate shelter” (no 28). The powers of the State are limited as to eviction from shelter, “No person must be evicted from their home, have their home demolished, without an order of court, made after considering all the relevant circumstances” (no. 74). The powers of the State are limited because the State has no right to interfere with basic human dignity and rights “given” as part of our humanity.

Land, property and housing are also closely related to the family which is the basic building block of society, “It is desirable that every family should be able to acquire a home of its own, because home ownership contributes to the stability and welfare of the family which the State has a duty to foster and protect” (ZCBC, 1989). Depriving families of their homes is a severe blow against family life and society as a whole.

All the other laws are man-made, passed by men and women in parliament, legal instruments to serve the common good, the good of the nation. They do not have absolute authority and are not cast in stone like basic human rights.

They are means towards an end, instruments for a purpose. If they no longer serve that purpose they can be changed or abolished. Take the example of land laws. Land is supposed to produce food. Landowners who do not produce any food may be deprived of their (agricultural) land. Landownership is a means towards an end. If the end is not achieved, the land may be taken away from the current owners and put to better use for the common good of the nation. There is no absolute right to landownership.

Conversely, people must not be deprived of the land they are occupying if the housing built on that land does serve a good purpose, namely giving shelter to an otherwise homeless family. Even if the law says that the land in question is not lawfully acquired, this alone is no reason to demolish the house. Housing is so scarce it should be preserved as far as possible to lessen the housing shortage. The “illegal structure” can be legalized, unless there are some serious reasons against it (wetland, land earmarked for some public purpose like education or health care etc) .

Thousands of houses have been built illegally in communal lands. Are we going to sacrifice them all on the altar of “legality”? Clearly the law no longer fits the social and economic reality. Is it not better to change the law rather than to destroy extremely valuable and very much needed housing? Positive laws as produced by parliament are mere tools. If they don’t fit the purpose they can be discarded and replaced by something better.

Government officials condemning countless families to terrible misery of living out in the open with their belongings unprotected, pretend that they must adhere to the law as if it was something sacred. It is not. People are more important than the law. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27). “Sabbath” here stands for “law”. “The law was made for man (and woman), not man (and woman) for the law”.

If some law forces a family to live on the banks of the Mukuvisi River then that law is plain nonsense and does not deserve to be respected. Or at least it is like a tool that is broken: throw it away.

What is the purpose of a government? To work for and achieve the common good of the nation, to produce prosperity, i.e. feed the people, provide them with health care, give the new generation a good education.

If it fails to do that, it is like a useless tool. Now apply your own logic to the performance of government, and you will know what needs to be done………….



News Day

Why Should We Give The State The Power To Kill?

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

The Minister of Justice recently declared he was not going to sign the death warrants of 97 prisoners on death row (he knows death row from the inside). For once I agree with him. Our new Constitution did not abolish the death penalty, but it did restrict it. Men can only be sentenced to death for the gravest of crimes, women not at all. The Minister’s announcement is a step in the right direction, death “ is too harsh a sentence and must be done away with”.

This is the rare case of people in power giving away part of their power. Most States cling to the power to kill, as if, deprived of this power, they would become weak and defenceles.

Many citizens grant the State this power without any further thought, possibly signing their own death warrant. They think it is necessary for their protection. They never accept the proven fact that the death penalty just does not deter killers. The US is one of the killer states still executing people, and yet has a high murder rate (as part of their gun culture?).

The first and foremost reason against the death penalty is simply the sanctity of life. We just do not have the right to take life. I admit that the Church has not always been steadfast in sticking to this principle. But there has been a conversion. Did you see the film “Dead man walking”?

The last century was the bloodiest in all human history. Who has done all this killing, in two world wars, the Holocaust, genocides? It may astonish us, but the plain fact is that most of this killing was done at the orders of states, by regular armies and other state agents. The State who claims the right to hang, decapitate, shoot or poison killers is the greatest killer of all. What people in their right minds will give this great killer, in some cases this great killing machine, legal authority to kill?

We know, and the minister of justice knows, that in our own history the death penalty was a weapon of politics. It was logical for post-apartheid South Africa to abolish capital punishment, remembering all the comrades who had been hanged in Pretoria Central Prison. Complete abolition would be the logical thing for us to do, considering the number of people killed in this country by police, soldiers and secret service agents, in the name of various governments, abusing the power the State gave them.

And who is the State? It is us, the citizens. If we give the State this ultimate power then we should not complain if state agents will use it, maybe one day against us, who stupidly pay taxes for them to buy the weapons for our assassination.

That is the problem of having armed forces, meant to guarantee our security, but in fact endangering it. Once you give a man a gun, allegedly to defend the nation against outside aggressors, he will also want to use it one day. The power to kill is the ultimate power, and power-hungry people will not let go of it, but use it to terrorize people.

34 miners were shot dead by South African police at Marikana Mine, up to 20 000 Zimbabweans were slaughtered in the ‘madness’ of ‘Gukurahundi’; we do not know yet how many people were killed on the diamond fields of Marange.

Do not give the State the power to kill. But remember, and keep reminding the State, that it is morally obliged to respect human life and preserve it at all costs. The right to life is the most basic right of all. All other rights become meaningless without it. Protecting life - that is what the uniformed forces are there for. The carnage on our roads is an indication of a colossal failure of police as an arm of our administration. Let no one say that accidents just “happen”, that it is “bad luck” or “fate” if you get killed in the bloody warfare on our (too narrow, ill-maintained) highways. This fatalistic attitude perpetuates the slaughter. Accidents are due to human failure, criminal neglect, aggressive behaviour.

The greed of commercial bus companies prevents them from maintaining their vehicles. Murderous rivalry and competition causes drivers, anxious to retain their jobs, to overspeed.

Who is ultimately responsible if 40 people die in a bus accident? The driver? The corrupt government for wasting the funds with which the potholed roads could be maintained? The bus owner for not replacing worn-out tyres? A careless mechanic for not adjusting the brakes? In the end we are all accomplices.

Who is responsible if hundreds of young mothers die in childbirth needlessly because of neglect of health care for the poor and unemployed? Why is there this enormous difference in health facilities for the poor and for the well-to-do? Why are the dwellings of the destitute threatened with demolition while the ministers giving such orders live in luxury mansions?

Economic failure is one of the causes of mortality among the poor and neglected in our society.

I am glad those 97 prisoners have been spared whatever their crimes may have been (What is wrong with hard labour to pay their debt?). I am glad someone somewhere realized that hanging them would not increase our respect for human life and make us more determined to protect it. Which is what our society needs more than anything else.



News Day

THE MIRACLE OF HARD WORK

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

We are a people who like “free lunches”. When Independence came many expected to enjoy the high living standards of their former masters overnight, never mind that this high living standard had been achieved through hard work, yes, but also at the expense of the oppressed majority. Everybody saw himself as a “freedom fighter” who now had to be rewarded with a privileged position, a cushy job in the civil service, a nice house, or a farm.

Up to the present day war veterans – and I am talking only about the genuine ones – moan and groan that they have been starved. They die disappointed, still dreaming of the expected bonanza. Where are the veterans happy that they were able to turn their ‘golden handshake’ through hard work into a thriving farm, a busy workshop or a small factory? No old fighter has to my knowledge ever asked where all those “free lunches” should come from in a country as unproductive as ours at the moment.

The landgrabbers, with some notable exceptions, were not really keen on agricultural land and the sweat it takes to make it produce crops. Some became “cell-phone farmers” without achieving much. You can’t do farming with your little finger, not even with your index finger punching your mobile. It is a 24-hour job.

Freedom meant enjoying the fruits of the hard labour of others. For many it did not mean being able to use fully one’s own creativity, initiative, energy and inexhaustible strength. Those, however, who did see Independence as the end of being shackled to discriminatory labour laws, rolled up their sleeves and got to work, are the real heroes though they will never find their place of rest among the official “heroes”.

Getting rich quick by dipping their hands into the pockets of others became the socially accepted way of becoming a “success”. We call it corruption. It prevents us from becoming creative and productive. Why should “indigenization” mean laying our hands on ready-made wealth produced by others? We need to understand that “indigenization” must come to mean the freedom to start our own businesses, companies and factories, the fruits of our own labour, or else we will never see a thriving Zimbabwe.

This economic “culture” if you can call it that is completely wrong-headed. It leads nowhere. But to look good they paint it over with a new brand of religion, a spiritual coat of bright paint to make it look respectable. These new “clerics” and “men of the cloth” have even invented a new god who is so wealthy that he can make his worshippers wealthy too, the god of “free lunches”. Public opinion has “ordained” them. Some of our ‘scribes’ cannot tell the difference between serious pastors and businessmen posing as “men of God” and “prophets”, who get “Mwari” and “mari”, God and ‘mammon’ (Lk. 16:9) mixed up.

If anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat”, said Paul, the tentmaker (2 Thess. 3: 10). The get-rich-quick guys are not only refusing to do an honest day’s work as tillers of the land or craftsmen or traders honestly serving the public, they have even destroyed our work culture : young people are only taught to shout brainless slogans , but not given a chance to prove their intelligence and energy in the world of labour (nicely demonstrated by Christopher Mlalazi, in: They are coming, Weaver Press).

Genuine Christians always had a strong work ethic. The slaves of ancient Rome and Athens were considered cursed because they had to do hard manual work while their masters discussed politics in the senate or on the market place, or philosophy on the Areopagus, a bit like our “masters” of today who waste their time on unproductive faction fighting.

This changed with the early Christian communities. Slaves were accepted as members and their lowly occupation as craftsmen was not despised. The early communities of monks and nuns had the motto “Ora et Labora / Pray and Work”. They did not pray at the expense of others. Monasteries were busy workshops and development centres, in today’s jargon.

Zimbabweans who got their education in mission schools will remember the brothers who kept the place going, as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, motor mechanics all rolled into one, and the sisters who were nursing, teaching reading and writing as well as domestic science, gardening and sewing, managing schools and doing the accounting. God the creator is the master builder and we make his creation a habitable place for all as his stewards (not becoming exploiters and destroyers by cutting down century old trees, killing rare animals and poisoning lakes and rivers!).

“Come and see your miracle today” the ‘prophets’ scream from posters covering every wall in the township. The more you believe in a god of ‘miracles’ the less you have to do yourself – is that their teaching? It almost looks like it.

Those brothers and sisters who enabled us to have an education and still do, teach a different lesson, not just in the classroom, but also in the workshop and hospital ward: the more you trust in your God who came to do hard labour and carry a heavy burden in a human life, the more you will want to join him and do likewise. Praying that does not lead to service of the community is fake.

The real miracle is performed by the worker who is proud of his craftsmanship and dedicated to the people who benefit from his/her labour, his wife (or her husband) and children, as much as all fellow citizens who thrive in a work-oriented economy. Miracles do not come from heaven, nor are they worked by the World Bank or IMF (not to mention Chinese trade corporations) , it is ‘none but ourselves’ who work them with trust in God the Creator and Masterbuilder.



This article was published in NewsDay on Monday, 25 August 2014 in the Guest Column.

BETTER CITIZENS MAKE FOR BETTER LEADERS

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

This country came off to a false start. At first the new plane seemed to soar into the sky beautifully, but then it crashed. Why? I think our crew had no idea where it wanted to fly. There was no chart.

How were they selected? According to their war credentials. No one asked them if they had a pilot’s licence. Now the old crew is tired and worn-out. They have had their day. Let them rest.

Crowds of equally unqualified crash pilots are surrounding the grounded flying machine, trying to get it off the ground – for another crash?

We must not allow those worn-out veterans to anoint their successors. The current system allows the party hierarchy to select candidates and impose them on the voting public. That perpetuates the rotten system.

That gang at the top gives us selfish jobseekers. Instead we have to work from the ground up with a new “fire brigade”, men and women ready to risk life and limb for the sake of the nation as whole.

So many shun “politics” as a dirty game and refuse to get involved. We do not just need a new type of leader, we need new citizens. Only citizens with a sense of responsibility for public affairs can choose one of their own as a leader. People who deny they have a public duty should not be surprised if the crooks take over.

Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Pope Francis). Put bluntly: if you have a child in school you cannot leave her at the mercy of the minister of education. If you are a caring person you must have a voice where the decisions are made. Just making a little cross on a ballot paper once in four years will not make a difference if the candidates on offer are self-serving careerists, not servants of the people.

A true citizen has a wide horizon. He looks at the country as a whole. If he sees a woman selling tomatoes on the street he says, ‘She is my sister. Why is she reduced to such a state?’ A caring citizen has a vision for the nation as a whole, not just for his class, party, tribe or clan.

A citizen takes pride in his country and has self-confidence. He is not a defeatist excusing himself, “There is nothing I can do, I won’t make a difference anyhow”. Such timidity makes it easy for the professional power-seekers to take over and be in control.

They try to restrict freedom of assembly so the voice of the citizen is not heard. But there are many assembly points and market places where thinking citizens can articulate themselves and their voice can be heard. Citizens never allow themselves to be gagged or silenced by propaganda. They think for themselves and are not spoonfed by nannies doing the thinking and talking for them.

Only if the voters are citizens of quality will we also get leaders of quality. Only if fathers and mothers, workers and professionals, farmers and engineers, nurses and doctors, teachers and pastors stand up and show that they care about the future of their children will we get better leaders. Only if the citizens show moral courage and insist on their constitutional rights to speak up despite police harassment, will there be another liberation.

Such self-confident, daring citizens will eventually produce leaders who have the moral courage to challenge the powerful by speaking up for their powerless, voiceless brothers and sisters. Leaders of moral courage will challenge even their own voters and supporters on behalf of those members of society who do not seem to count, but possess human dignity nevertheless. They will risk their career by throwing in their lot with the unborn and the dying, prisoners and prostitutes, immigrants and outcasts, the handicapped and the unemployed, considered a nuisance and disreputable, but human beings of the same divine origin nevertheless.

Religion can easily be abused in politics. Certain leaders like to give themselves a divine aura. They are not serious. But what responsible citizens and their chosen leaders should be serious about is the well-being of everyone without discrimination. They will have to answer for their decisions and give an account of their doings. The one asking has a definite bias towards those in the shadows of society.

We have accepted religious tolerance. There is freedom of religion, and the State does not identify with a particular faith. And yet, the State needs some glue for citizens to stick together and not slaughter each other, women need to be protected from abuse and wholesale rape, life must be sacred, the family is vital for the existence of the State as its basic building block. This glue is normally called morality. We have to accept the way we were made and our given nature.

The Christian Church, having the largest following, needs to talk about good citizenship and inspiring leadership. Just hymn singing is not good enough. Not that the church should identify with particular parties. It should keep out of political strife. But through the ages it has seen nations rise and fall, flourish and decay, so it has a role to play as a consultant, an adviser, even at times a referee. Needless to say, it has to improve on its own leadership, too, at all levels.

The Church needs to talk to other faiths. In our African situation, first of all to the heirs of tradition who honour the ancestors, then to Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, and to secularists who are not without morality and values either. Any tradition with reverence for the Creator and/or positive community values needs to be respected by the State as a constructive force.

We need honest leaders, men and women who ‘do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with their God’ (Micah 6 : 8). This will show up in their deeds, not in dressing up in church uniforms. Only citizens happy to serve in a lowly position will give us leaders who remain humble even when they have reached the top .



TRUTH AND POWER

A young man who wants to marry a girl tells her many flattering things. He makes many promises. He comes to pick her up in a flashy motor car to impress her with his wealth. Except that the car is not his. It is merely borrowed from a well-to-do friend. There is an old proverb, ”Rume risinganyepi hariroori / A man who does not tell lies will never marry [the woman he is courting]”.

If you want people’s support don’t tell them the truth. If you want their votes as a candidate don’t tell them what you are really up to, tell them what they want to hear. People want to be told lies. Or so the powerful think.

For many years now we have been told that “sanctions” have destroyed our economy. That a travelling ban on a small “elite” has shut down our factories and deprived our workers of employment and income.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Before 1980 the entire United Nations, almost the whole world, was barred from trading with this country and yet its economy did not collapse. The first government after Independence inherited a functioning economic system. It contained structural injustice and needed reform, but it was productive.

A doctor cannot heal a patient unless he has arrived at a correct diagnosis. If we do not know the truth about our condition we will die. The power-hungry are blind. They do not want to see that it was their greed that destroyed production. Just grabbing and gulping down what others have grown does not produce anything. Once all is eaten hunger returns. Just owning land does not make crops grow.

“What is truth?” a certain Pontius Pilate asked skeptically. Men of power rarely have much respect for truth. Which is why their empires do not last. Too many lies eventually undermine power. The powerful end up living in a cloud-cuckoo-land, losing touch with reality.

We need people with a passion for truth, people who are not satisfied with mere headlines. People who know the difference between “sanctions” and a “travel ban”, between farming and talking into a cell-phone, between occupying land and working it.

Voter intimidation and falsified election results distorted the true will of the people. Governments lacked genuine majority support and therefore legitimacy. The truth was suppressed and we were denied our freedom. Only ‘the truth makes us free’.

Corrupt leaders have robbed government of tax revenue. If you steal a thousand dollars you go to prison. Steal a million and you go free. Steal anything if you have an uncle in the corridors of power.

We need to beg for funds to run our elections. Where are the millions from our newly discovered diamonds? Where are the taxes?

All this happens because we are afraid of being punished for “speaking truth to power”. Honest people are being gagged by oppressive legislation and accused of “defamation” for wanting to know the origin of wealth in our impoverished country.

That is why we need a lively opposition in parliament. Africa thinks being in opposition is a waste of time, is failure. Far from it. Without an opposition free to ask embarrassing questions we are all led down the garden path and end up in a ditch because nobody warned us.

For a similar reason we need free media, freedom of information and expression, reporters and journalists who never tire of finding out the truth. If you just want to earn a top salary journalism is perhaps not such a good idea. But if you have a passion for asking questions and having them answered, never taking No Comment for an answer, then a desk in a newsroom may be the right spot for you. Just as a doctor must have a passion for healing her patients, even those who cannot pay, so a news writer must find satisfaction in sharing information with his fellow citizens and empowering them to judge things based on true facts.

Truth is not just a commodity to be sold. It has value whether you are adequately paid for your stories or not. It is worth even some sacrifice, like “enjoying the hospitality of the State” over a long weekend in a police cell.

Power is not just in the hands of leaders and political agents. The journalist who is professionally curious about what the political class is up to is powerful too, in his or her own way. It can make them arrogant, or careless and lazy . “Who can touch me?” Worse still, it can corrupt them, put them on the “market” where they have their “price”.

There is an occupational hazard, cynicism. Like the old Roman governor, they may ask, “What is truth?” They may lose their conviction that there is truth; the trend may be to think there are only opinions which are not worth fighting for. Since different employers seem to have different ideas about what is true and false, they decide to make a living rather than living with a conviction they cannot afford. They learn to be able to write in just about any style, to suit any taste, for the purposes of any ideology. When they enter the media house where they are employed they hand in their conscience at the reception.

Occasionally we have the good fortune of meeting a leader, a true statesman or –woman, who is prepared to reveal his true convictions and make demands on the people, even if it costs her votes. Just as we meet writers and communicators who believe in truth and regard it a treasure worth seeking, even though they humbly admit they do not always succeed in finding it.

NEWSDAY

DISTRESSED PEOPLE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE



By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Leaders are responsible for those whom they lead. The lives of the people are entrusted to them. The leaders must create conditions which allow people to make a living and stay alive. Of old, chiefs provided food for the people in times of need from a granary (zunde raMambo) for that purpose.

In our day land, manpower, skills and expertise, as well as investment capital must be organized in such a way that the people use the land productively.

Indigenisation and greater equity in the distribution of land and the means of production may be an excellent long-term goal. But if it does not provide work for the workless and give them food, at least in the short term, then the welfare of the people may demand a different strategy.

The people and their welfare, their sheer survival, come first. They must not be sacrificed to an ideology, splendid in itself, but of little practical value in saving the people from economic ruin and starvation.

Leaders with political responsibility must study these problems intensively and be engaged with industrialists, agricultural economists, trade unions and employers at all times.

Alas, politicians care little about the real problems of the country. With a few laudable exceptions, most of the time they are busy fighting each other for top posts. The struggle for power and the acquisition of wealth occupy them much more than the worries of the people whom they represent.

A true leader must care about the little people, the ordinary citizens in town and country. True leaders must be unselfish. They must make the worries of ordinary workers, and even more so of all who have no work, their very own.

A leader is not one who “has made it”, at long last free from all financial worries, with a luxury car that takes him away from the people, not to them. Quite the opposite, true leaders must go out to the people and share the heavy burden of their lives and carry it with them.

In our Zimbabwean situation, unemployment, especially of the youth, must give them a real headache. Old widows and young single mothers sitting as vendors at street corners are for them not a problem of policing and security, of law and order, but a human problem. They must feel in their hearts what life is like for self-employed women in the informal sector who have to send their children to school from the tiny income they get from selling vegetables or handicraft or even themselves at night.

This hopeless situation drives many across the Limpopo to South Africa. Having escaped the crocodiles, they may fall into the hands of the “maguma-guma”, robbers and rapists. Some social workers of the church, e.g. nuns, try to help the shocked economic refugees. But that can only be First Aid.

A priest friend from Tzaneen tells me that he has never seen Zimbabwean leaders seeing for themselves what happens to their own people stuck between their own country that has abandoned them, and their host country that does not want them.

Surely our leaders know that it is two main causes the world over that drive people into exile: war and violence, and poverty and unemployment. Charity, though welcome in the midst of acute hunger and misery, cannot solve the problem. Our economy must be revived and factory gates must be reopened, workers must take up the tools once more and re-start production. Ideological obstacles must be removed.

The shouting of slogans in support of one’s own party at the forthcoming election must stop. The survival, not just of one’s own friends and clients, is at stake, but of the people as a whole, regardless of their political sympathies. For such magnanimity and humanity we need statesmen, not just party agents, mothers of the nation, not just female party propagandists.

It seems our government does not bother about migrants; “good riddance” seems to be the feeling in the corridors of power, though combined with hoping that eventually the migrants will sent remittances back to Zimbabwe. South Africa does not see distressed neighbours in them, not even potentially useful workers, but only troublesome vagrants.

Should not the two countries come together and negotiate a solution? Would it not be in the long-term interest of both countries to relieve the suffering of their people, African brothers and sisters? Is this not the humanism a people proud of their heritage of ‘unhu/ubuntu’ should have?

Is this not the job of SADC to bring the two together and assist them in rebuilding the Zimbabwean economy, the root cause of this migration? It must be in the interest also of South Africa to restore economic sanity north of the Limpopo (ignoring the current economic advantage for South African business which sells Zimbabwe what it cannot produce itself at the moment).

The people must come first, and the economy must serve them.

NewsDay

BLIND LEADERS AFRAID OF THOSE WHO SEE



By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Our 2013 Constitution states that “every person has the right to freedom of expression”, and that “every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident….has the right of access to any information held by the State…” (Nos. 61 and 62). The Constitution acknowledges that free communication is vital for a “democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom”.

But our media legislation speaks a very different language, e.g. the Access of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). Media Laws in this country are an expression of the great fear those in authority have of a well-informed people who do not swallow party propaganda, but answer back on the basis of facts.

The Constitution and the media laws contradict each other in spirit and letter. Why are the laws not adjusted to the Constitution?

Since “broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing procedures”, why are Zimbabwean citizens, who are also voters and taxpayers, denied the freedom to establish their own citizens’ radios (also called community radios)?

Why are our leaders afraid of a free flow of information in our country? Why do they shake in their boots when confronted with free citizens asking their own questions?

The powerful themselves do not want to know all that much. They prefer to forget. They do not want to know that spending money that did not exist was the beginning of our economic decline. They do not want to know that even today there are victims of “Murambatsvina” still squatting in exactly the same kind of shacks government wanted to do away with in 2005.

They do not want to know that you cannot develop trade relations without respect for the Rule of Law. They prefer to play the blaming game. It is so much easier, and intellectually very lazy, to blame the “western powers” (no innocent angels, true).

Decision-makers work on the basis of accurate information, facts and figures. You cannot spend money you have not got, you must know the economy. But if you gag the media, deny them access to information, threaten journalists with arrest and imprisonment, the very sources providing you with that information, you are likely to be a “blind guide”, a misinformed bungler.

Intellectually sharp politicians should welcome critical voices, forcing them to delve more deeply into political options and calculate the long-term effects. These critical voices they find in quality media (not tabloids), but also in encounters with observant citizens who see things with open eyes: community radios could be such a source of “grassroots” information.

Too many of our representatives in parliament and government see in the media only adversaries. They cannot follow an argument presented by a well-informed economist in a newspaper column. All they know is their party line and ideology which they swallowed forty years ago.

A good leader is not afraid of the truth; he guards against self-deception and narrow self-interest. He cares even about people who are not potential voters; the fact that they suffer is enough for him to worry about them, e.g. Zimbabweans in South Africa threatened with eviction, or fellow citizens overseas who cannot come home even to bury their parents because as “illegals” they would lose everything.

Prospective leaders promise their voters that they will create jobs for them, but have absolutely no idea how to do that in a devastated economy. They may know how to knock out a rival, but in an argument about the best economic policy for creating wealth and work for all they have little to say. They are not interested in a “reading culture” that would give them competence and judgement. Newspapers and TV programmes interest them only for the propaganda value of their own pictures appearing.

Like politicians who fear for their positions of power, so ordinary people fear for their lives. Desperate to restore their fortunes, they turn to dubious business-minded “prophets” who promise them economic miracles. They no longer seek rational answers to our malaise, but find relief in “faith”, paying lots of money for comforting illusions. It is not genuine faith whose light is also seen by reason, but the spiritual sugar-coating for our pilfering ‘get-rich-quick’ culture.

If you want to survive you must be prepared for change. ‘Life is change, and to have lived is to have changed very often’. Genuine prophets who warned kings and governors that their rule was facing ruin lived dangerously and died in disgrace. When Galileo Galilei revealed that the earth was not the centre of the universe, but merely a little planet in the solar system amongst a myriad of other stars, he encountered much hostility. If you tell an autocrat that he is not the centre of the universe do not expect to fare any better.

In this situation we need free media that confront us with reality. We need intellectual challenges that force us to think and come to viable answers. We need a country-wide platform for dialogue and a local exchange of information where there is no hiding place from the real world.

That we are denied this openness and this exposure to what pains people in countrywide or local media, is a disservice to the nation.

NewsDay

Failed Politics and False Religion

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Public relations managers of political leaders have been trying again and again to boost their bosses’ image and save them from political ruin by calling them divine and God-like.

They assume that no one can oppose or contradict a leader who has God on his side. It would be like opposing God himself. This semi-divine status is to confirm that leader in his position once and for all, make him unassailable and give him absolute power, in other words, make him a tyrant and dictator. It is totally undemocratic.

A leader chosen by the people is human and therefore prone to commit errors. If he fails to fulfill the task the people have given him he should go.

Using the name of God for political propaganda is also bad religion (cf. Exodus 20: 7 : “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain”). Such a politician does not respect God as supreme, but subordinates him to his own interests as a mere tool. This is blasphemy. It is an insult.

A politician may claim he possesses “all the kingdoms of the world” given to him by divine power, making him almighty (Luke 4: 5; Mt 4: 8). He is wrong: it is not God, but Satan, the evil one, who gives unlimited power.

Beware of promises of great wealth. It was the Evil One who tried to tempt Jesus that way. He was unmasked and chased away.

There have been leaders boasting that they had been chosen by God or were ruling “by the grace of God” . In their arrogance they had little respect for human life and used their young people as “cannon fodder” in needless, wasteful wars.

If we want to think of our leaders at all in religious terms then we want God-fearing, humble men and women, people who strive ’to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with their God’ (Micah 6: 8) .

They do not intimidate people by claiming that their politics are divinely ordained and that therefore no one must ever critically call them into question. Quite the opposite, they are aware of the complexity of the real world and therefore listen to advice and even criticism.

True leaders listen to conscience, an inner voice informed by the Word of God, before they make decisions. Conscience reminds them how precious every human being is. Not only those that vote for them, but even those who don’t.

It is an indication of the depth of the moral and spiritual decay in our country that even religion has gone bad. Those propagandistic praise singers of failed leaders make use of the name of God in a last bid to save them from ruin and total rejection by the voting citizens, owners of the country.

Others living in fear of total bankruptcy fantasize about divine miracles that are to restore our good fortunes and prosperity.

In view of a failing health system false prophets, cynical exploiters of the people’s fears and anxieties, promise miraculous cures for the incurable and sudden new life for the dying.

All this is abuse of religion and exploitation of the gullibility of a terror-stricken population.

Small wonder that some people have lost their faith because they have been duped by false prophecies and false images of the Divine too often.

The people of this country and their leaders have to face up to reality. There is no way out of our misery, out of disease poverty and hunger, except through hard, honest work.

It is infantilism and sheer childishness to expect divine powers to rescue us. The Creator has given us a paradise and we have turned it into a potholed ruin. He has given us hands and brains, intelligence and energy. Only these, not overfed managers starving their workers, will turn the country around.

“The greatest among you must be your servant.” The only miracle we should pray and hope for is that we get leaders who are genuine servants of the people, without discrimination, with respect for everyone, without ethnic, political or social discrimination. Without responding to the cries of the people and their needs you are no leader at all.

That latest praise-singer of his political boss had only one ambition, to hold on to power. But what is power? If it is no more than personal ambition does it heal any sick person? Does it feed anyone starving? Does it provide any youngster with work and a living wage?

Our political class worships at the altar of power. They spend their time fighting their rivals. When do they work for the betterment of the lives of those who voted for them?

Power is not an end in itself. It must not become an idol in front of which people prostrate themselves like slaves. What happened to our liberation?

Power is merely a tool with which to achieve political goals for the improvement of the lives of all the people of the country, i.e. for the Common Good, in solidarity with all, even the poorest of the poor.

Power is taken up like a tool, and put down again when the job is done. Madiba was able to give up power. Benedict XVI , a spiritual leader, listened to his conscience and stepped down when he could no longer serve his people.

These were free people, not tied to their positions of power. That is the greatness of leaders, to be able to listen to conscience and relinquish power. To forget self and ask what the people need.

Schooling - our Continued Struggle for Liberation

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

I still remember a farmer shouting at me, “Education spoils them! You church people with your schools make them useless!” For that white farmer - there were others who ran schools themselves - an educated man was a rebel, no longer willing to do slave labour.

In certain Eastern countries where atheism was the official ideology and religion suppressed, known Christians were barred from higher education to cripple them intellectually and reduce their influence.

Britain, acting like a colonial master in Ireland, used to deny Irish children an education and destroy their spiritual heritage. Nano Nagle, a brave young Irishwoman of the 18th century, started all by herself a network of clandestine schools to give first girls, later also boys, a general education and introduce them to the faith of their ancestors. It was her own personal “struggle for liberation”. Later she was joined by other women. Nagle House High School for Girls in Marondera was founded by her spiritual descendants.

Robert Moffat translated the Bible into seTswana. So the children had to learn how to read the Bible. And yet it opened to children more than the Bible. Once you know how to read and write in both your mother tongue and an international medium, universal knowledge becomes available to you. You can read the Bible, your prayer book and catechism, but also the Little Red Book of Comrade Mao, the Koran, the Communist Manifesto, Martin Luther King or Siegmund Freud, Ghandi or Mandela, or any other author under the sun. You have a choice.

Deny children an education and you deprive them of freedom, restrict them to a narrow space. That is why I was most alarmed about a recent headline “One million children out of school”. Is this not the end of our “struggled for liberation”?

A state that fails to educate the next generation is indeed a “failed state”. But this cannot be the end of the story. If the state fails us we as citizens must take the initiative ourselves, like another Nano.

I knew an elderly man who ran a backyard school for young school drop-outs. Financial gain was not his motive. He asked just for a few dollars to buy the most necessary books and implements. A bureaucrat told him to stop it, he had no permission and was not qualified. But if a man jumps into a river to save a drowning child, does he have to apply for permission first and prove he is a life-saver?

Every child born into this world is unique and precious. Human beings are not mass-produced on an assembly line. Each little boy and little girl has his or her special gifts. Each one is an original creation. And we have a duty to develop those gifts and make them fruitful for the nation.

We were not asked whether we wanted to be born into this world. Nor were these children. But once born they have a right to get a warm welcome and to be educated properly. And we as their elders have a duty to provide this education. We cannot just drop a million children and say, “Sorry, there is nothing for you here. Why did you come? Go away.”

If this headline is correct we are facing a national emergency. “Money must not rule, it must serve, “ Francis, Bishop of Rome, said recently. People come first. Children are our greatest resource. And how do we deal with them?

When I see children coming from school at 10.00 in the morning I ask them, “Have you already finished school for today?” –“No,” they say, ”we have been expelled” (“Takadzingwa”). As if they had been mischievous and deserved punishment. In fact, we, their elders, ought to be punished for having ruined the country so it cannot even produce enough to provide for these little ones, the citizens of tomorrow.

In the whole of Africa we spend millions and billions on the military and weapons of war. Where are the external enemies against whom we have to be defended? I do not see them. Most wars in Africa are civil wars. African armies are mostly used to defend and protect unwanted leaders against populations trying to get rid of them. In the meantime health and education are underfunded. It is women and children who suffer most in these civil wars.

It is our children who suffer if the leaders fight for power among themselves, exploit the economic resources for their own political interests, while neglecting the Common Good. This is our national emergency. And those little boys and girls who tell me “Takadzingwa”, without really knowing why, are the victims.

If there is a natural disaster, a flood, a hurricane or widespread forest fire, people run for cover in church halls, schools or community centres. Maybe we have to register all the expelled children, victims of something worse than a hurricane, and run “Nano schools” for them in those church halls or social centres.

Just chasing the children away and leave them uneducated is no option for a country that claims to have been liberated.



House on Fire Needs All Hands

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Bishops do not just sit in offices or boardrooms. They are shepherds and walk with their flocks. Archbishop Ndlovu of Harare has been visiting this year 42 centres in his diocese which reaches from Birchenough Bridge to Bindura and from Nyamapanda to Sanyati.

Bishops do not just preach, they also listen to what the people have to say. Much of it is heard-rending: no food, no rain; land without implements, fertilizer or seed; “politicized food”, intimidation and threats.

From what they have seen and heard, the bishops have come to the conclusion that “the elections have left Zimbabweans more polarized than they were before and during the years of the Inclusive Government”.

The crisis is so serious that “politics as normal” in their view just will not do. We all see that too much energy goes into political infighting, too little into paying attention to the state of emergency into which we are sinking more deeply every day; too much time is spent on playing the blaming game, too little time goes into drastic action to save the sinking ship.

“Zimbabweans, and that includes the politicians and political parties among us, must transcend their differences and work together for the common good of our country” (Restoration and Peace in Zimbabwe, Christmas letter, ZCBC). When the house is on fire quarrelling neighbours join together and douse the flames, handing buckets of water from one to the other. - After an accident, do you ask the ambulance men what party cards they carry or in which church they pray? As an accident victim, do you want to die rather than to be rescued by a “dissident”?

In one aspect all political parties and movements must be united and have a common aim and objective: promoting the “common good” and giving a decent life to all. A party that has as its sole aim the annihilation of the enemy and grabbing all national assets for itself, is not a political party at all, it is a criminal gang.

Recent experience has shown, maintain the bishops, “that the winner-take-all political arrangement will not benefit Zimbabwe and her people at this stage of our political development. Neither the Government, the Opposition nor any one of us alone can achieve the restoration that our country and people so sorely need.”

Whether or not indigenization is a good idea is not the point. That is a long-term issue. Why bother now about what sort of house we may want in the future? If we do not put out the fire now there won’t be a house to live in.

But if indigenization at this moment would deprive workers of jobs and income and make their families starve then it must be shelved. Human life is more important than political ideology and personal pride.

Even in middle-class suburbs women and girls are seen with buckets looking for water, just as in drought-stricken villages. Water is life, and without it we get sick and die. What comes first - party or country?

Political faction-fighting and intrigues are luxuries we cannot effort as the flames of the burning house engulf us. We need statesmen, not politicians; peacemakers, not fanatics fighting yesterday’s wars.

Peacemakers “engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment” (ZCBC quoting Benedict XVI).

We cannot leave it to ambitious, but incompetent politicians to rescue Zimbabwe from shrinking, cracking up and imploding. We need a new “economic model that is inclusive, that draws from the abundant pool of expertise that we are blessed with among our people and that transcends political and other boundaries”.

Church leaders are daily confronted with the “cries of the poor”. But church charity cannot cope. Feeding schemes do not stop endemic hunger and famine. Something far more radical has to be done. The country has to be turned around altogether. It has to start producing again.

Foreign investors are welcome, but capital alone does not do the trick. The most capable of Zimbabweans must be given the freedom to use their talents and managerial skills and employ once more the country’s idle workforce at workbenches and in laboratories, in the fields and in processing plants, in workshops and on building sites.

Race and class do not really matter if life itself is at stake. ‘Jobs for brothers and cousins’ will not restart the broken down engine. We must see to it that “the best qualified experts be invited to serve on these task teams irrespective of their political, religious or any other persuasion and that they remain apolitical/non-partisan”.

The bishops conclude their cry for radical reform of the economy by quoting their brother Francis, Bishop of Rome, who is asking for “dialogue, listening, patience, respect for others, sincerity and also willingness to rethink one’s own opinion”.

The time for party rivalry is over. We either keep fighting and perish, or we strive for the survival of all and live, excluding no one.

NewsDay

STRIVING FOR EQUALITY AND THE COMMON GOOD

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

“Each Person is Equal before the Law”, says the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (art. 3). “All persons are equal before the Law,” says our new Constitution (ch. 4, 56 [1]). We take this for granted, and do not pay much attention.

As a matter of fact, this is a fantastic thing to say and a tremendous claim to make. We should sing and dance in the streets.

For much of human history “persons were NOT equal before the Law”. Ancient Rome and Greece are celebrated for their good governance: their citizens were free to take part in public affairs; and yet economically they depended on slave labour . The Constitution of the United States celebrates individual freedom, and yet its founding fathers owned black slaves. Only in the 19th century was slavery abolished. There was no equality in either Rhodesia or apartheid South Africa. We have not yet recovered from the violence and destruction which was used to remove racial discrimination.

And even today there is still slave labour; mere children do forced labour in dangerous mines underground. Cheap labour in collapsing Asian “sweatshops” is now a decisive factor in our international economic system: the textile industry has moved to India and China, Bangla Desh and Thailand. The women there who produce our clothes have no choice. If workers insist on living wages the industry simply moves elsewhere. See what happened to our Zimbabwean textile industry?

There is human trafficking to provide sex slaves for the rich, sex tourism exploiting children from destitute families. “All persons equal before the law”? That is an extremely bold claim.

We make this bold claim in our constitution. But we are by no means certain that we really want this equality and are prepared to pay the political and economic price for it.

We can see now that the “struggle” was for party power only and still is. If you belong to the party you benefit. If you don’t, you are left out in the cold and have little to celebrate on Independence Day.

If we want equality we must strive for prosperity for all, regardless of political affiliation or ethnic background. Equality does not go together with “politicization of relief food” or the reservation of farming land and building plots for “party comrades” only.

The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, on taking office, swears an oath that he 'will devote himself to the well-being of Zimbabwe and its people' (Constitution, third schedule). Not just to the well-being of his party and its members.

The party may reply in self-defence that in their view the party and the people are one, or should be. Which implies that those outside the party are non-entities in Zimbabwe and do not enjoy the full rights of citizens. The political ideal of the party remains the one-party-state.

But the constitution which was accepted by the majority of Zimbabwe's citizens, with the backing of the old party, says something very different. "Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language class, religious belief, political affiliation , opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability or economic or social status, or whether they were born in or out of wedlock" (Constitution, no. 56). What a reassuring statement breaking down all discrimination! What a beautiful freedom song!

But the sad reality is that these words are too beautiful to be true. Do we really say Yes to this declaration? Here we are deeply divided. Too many say Yes,but...There is no freedom of "political affiliation". There is discimination against those who have "voted wrongly".

The crucial test for any politician in this country is this question: Do you work for the well-being of all Zimbabweans, even of those who are not "politically affiliated" to you? Or do you care only about your family, clan, ethnic grouping, party, class, church? Do you pursue the Common Good of the family of Zimbabwe, or do you look only after your "home boys" (or girls), comrades, political friends, social equals?

All leaders are obliged to work for the well-being of all citizens. That is the common aim, the end which they all subscribe to. They may disagree about the ways and means to reach that end. For example : the well-being of all citizens demands that health care is provided for all. But how to do that, given the economic situation? Should we have a national health insurance into which we all have to pay our contributions? Some think this is a grand idea, others point to the failure of NSSA. On this level we may well disagree, along party lines. We have a common vision of what we want as our eventual aim and objective, while disagreeing about the ways and means to get there.

What is no option according to our Constitution is to say (or think): we will provide health care for our party supporters, but not for the "dissidents". Such leaders are no longer pursuing the Common Good, such a country is no longer one, and such a policy declares war on half or more of the population, deprives them of full citizenship, even of their humanity.

We believe in the human dignity, the right to life and to personal liberty of each and every one of us. I can go broke, be out of work, have no shelter, be abandoned by wife or husband, by family and friends, but I remain a member of the human family, 'created in the image of God'. Will it make me less human just because I do not support your party?

Working for the Common Good is based on this belief in our common humanity. For far too long we have believed (since the beginning of the nationalist "struggle" in the 1960s actually) that party loyalty may be enforced at the price of life and liberty. We must agree, and in the new Constitution we do agree, that this is now over.

It is time the "born --frees" who do not want to be prisoners of the hatred and hostility of the past, but want to go forward, go to their elders and say, "You have done your share. You have fought for an end to racial discrimination. But there is a 'time to break down, and a time to build up' (Ecclesiastes). This new beginning needs you all. Even enemies, 'dissidents' and 'sell-outs'. We need you too, no one is excluded."

The old guard accepted that freedom and prosperity "for us" was always bought with misery and slavery "for them". We need to get out of our trenches. Out of confrontation, out of old hostilities and battlefields.

In future we will respect the life and liberty and dignity of everyone, friend and foe, as we work together for the Common Good , or we will not have a future at all.

PRODUCTIVE WORK, NOT JUST "MAKING MONEY", IS WHAT WE WANT

Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

I love people who do not moan and groan, but get on with the work. They are too busy feeding their hens and pigs, watering their vegetables patches and sell their produce on the market. They have no time to sit and complain about the bad times.

When I have a printing job done for me I like to chat to the printers: they enjoy what they are doing (despite power cuts) and take pride in their good craftsmanship. True, financial calculations must work out and the money must come in. But the work must also be enjoyable. A beautifully designed frontcover and a well laid-out magazine gives them as much pleasure as me, their customer.

Zimbabwe is sick and needs a cure. I suggest work is the only remedy. Depressed, dispirited people, moody and on the point of despair, need occupational therapy, they need to keep their brains busy, their legs moving and their hands occupied with productive work. Nothing is more mind-numbing and paralyzing than to sit and moan, “There is nothing we can do”.

Our whole culture is moving in the wrong direction. Far too many try to make a living, not by doing productive work, but by laying their hands on what other people have produced before. Not by creating something new, but by exploiting the old. Not by growing and expanding, but merely by redistributing and shifting around what is already there.

The land-grabbers sitting on hundreds of acres of land think they are rich now. But as long as they don’t grow crops and milk their cows they own merely empty space. (Why do most of our dairy products come from 'down south'?)

Maybe they hope one day to make a lot of money by selling the land once the market price has gone up. That may well be an illusion. But even if it were to come about it would not be real, but merely speculative money. They would not have produced anything, or added real value to our economy. They might be able, by hook or by crook, to enrich themselves, but not the country and the people at large. They would have done nothing for the common good and not increased the wealth of a potentially rich country.

'Indigenisation' is another such self-deception. We need growth, not mere redistribution. We need many more jobs. Just pushing other people out and occupying their places ourselves, what is the use of that? Driving the people with the know-how and experience out and replacing them with amateurs, will that create jobs for the loafers at our street corners?

I have sympathy for people who leave for the 'diaspora'. I know they have children to send to college and old parents to look after. Still, as a matter of fact they go where there is great wealth already to benefit from it and leave poverty behind, depriving us of their skills with which they may make things grow and create more jobs in the process. If only they had the freedom to do that. But creative people with initiative and imagination are not welcome here; they might fail to toe the party-line or vote "wrongly".

There are many ways of squeezing money out of other people or getting one's hands into their pockets. Demanding and taking bribes, for instance. Selling favours. Call it what you will, it is theft. It may be a way of 'making money', but it does not produce anything. "Something for something, nothing for nothing", Thomas Mapfumo used to sing. Now this is paying "something for nothing". You are being robbed, paying for a service government has to render to the taxpayer without charge, anyway.

There are landlords who have so many lodgers and charge them so much rent, they do not have to work any more. They exploit the plight of the homeless and demand big money for a tiny room: the law of 'supply and demand' at its cruellest. Supply is scarce, demand huge. The lucky landlord supplying a scarce commodity "makes money". But at the cost of great hardship for the homeless, and without thought for the community as a whole.

The genuine prophets of old Israel took the side of the poor and warned the rich who were "buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals" that the Lord would "never forget any of their deeds" (Amos 6).

The popular prophets of today promise rich profit to the worshippers of the god of infinite wealth; they take you into "cloud-cuckoo-land" where you do do not have to work or toil; they spoil you with a religion for the infantile.

Trying to get "rich quick" through magic and "medicines" is another unproductive, destructive mindset. The only "magic" that works is the wonder of your brains, the skills of your hands and a heart caring for the community.

True believers in the Creator enjoy being his creative co-workers. There are no miracles or short-cuts. If you want a miracle look at a woman who feeds her family by breeding chicks and growing vegetables, and enjoys it. Or at a man who is proud of his skills and is honest with his customers.

You cannot spend what you have not got. That is a simple basic rule of all economics. An ordinary housewife knows it. Only our leaders think they are clever when they ignore it. With disastrous results. Some Members of Parliament were reported to be demanding pensions. Let them make our economy move again and be productive. Spending money that just did not exist was the beginning of our going down-hill in the first place.

Francis, Bishop of Rome and Pope, has said recently that the two greatest social evils besetting the world are 'the unemployment of the young and the loneliness of the old'. Can't we forget our rivalries and jealousies and concentrate on this one thing necessary, finding workplaces for our children on the building site of this world? If they get busy and manage to turn this country around they will be there to look after us when we are old, and yet not lonely.

LET’S BE GOOD SAMARITANS

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When an ambulance comes down the road, lights flashing, siren screaming, we give it right of way and respectfully keep out of its path. In some places ambulances and their crews are called ‘Good Samaritans’ because they come to the aid of a very ill or injured person. It is a matter of life and death that help comes within minutes. Perhaps we ask who the person might be whose life hangs on a thin thread.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers,…leaving him half dead.” A Samaritan, traditionally despised by his neighbours in Jerusalem, picked him up and gave him First Aid. This is one of the best known biblical stories.

The message is clear: we are responsible for one another. We must not just walk past a fellow human being in distress.

People expect the State to organize health care and emergency services, food production and relief programmes. Indeed, as citizens taking part in public affairs we should never tire of asking the men and women who claim to represent us in parliament what is being done for public health and social welfare.

We must regard our possessions as gifts for sharing. The more I own, however hard I worked for it, the more I have an obligation to share it with those who never even had the chance to work, use their hands and brains and make a living, or with sick and handicapped people.

If government can create economic conditions that will lead to more jobs and employment, especially for the young, all the better. But if you are hungry you cannot wait that long. If you need a wheelchair you need it now and not in the distant future. If you are a bright child in need of an education your chance is now. You cannot wait and let your brain rot.

Of course a work opportunity is perhaps better for you than cash. Starting capital for a “self-job” may be better for you and your future than a free gift that is eaten up today and leaves you hungry again tomorrow.

We must commend all those women who receive parentless children in their homes and bring them up as their own. Many are not so lucky. They need schoolfees, food, clothing and medical care. 'Let us find foreign donors for them'. But these are our children. We are responsible for them. Once we have done our level best for them, we may seek help further afield.

Unfortunately, our half-privatized health care system is a closed door for the majority, especially if only expensive surgery can save your life.

They are fellow human beings whose lives simply depend on our generosity.

NEWSDAY CARES tries to identify these brothers and sisters of ours.



NEWSDAY

NEEDED: LEADERS WITH CONSCIENCE

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

The greatest damage colonial domination has done to us is that it has given Africa a generation of morally crippled leaders. This can be observed in North and South , East and West. It strikes me as having had the greatest impact in our Southern sub-region. The performance of SADC leaders in the aftermath of our recent “elections” was simply pathetic - a complete moral collapse.

With a few notable exceptions like Madiba, the suffering those’ liberation heroes’ have undergone has not made them more sensitive to the moral demands and responsibilities of leaders. Instead it has given them a victim mentality. Psychologically the victim considers himself innocent since he can blame his enemy for all wrongs. Even though he has been given full responsibility on the day of Independence, he does not accept it. It is so much more comfortable to be a victim who can forever with a feeling of moral superiority blame the ”imperialist”. But this is childish. A true leader accepts responsibility for his decisions: ” The buck stops here”. The infantilized victim carries on with the blaming game. The liberation of his mind is yet to come.

Comradely solidarity seems to be the only value these people have. Fraud, lies, deception just do not count. Morally speaking they are deaf and dumb, “blind guides”, biblically speaking.

We do not just have bodily senses like seeing, hearing, smelling etc. We should also have moral senses and sensitivities. Collectively we call that a conscience. Many leaders once rose up against the moral outrage of racism. So they did have moral feelings. What happened to them? How did they lose them?

They are leaders, but they have lost direction. They have no conscience any more to guide them. One day they say, ‘You who did not vote for us, so don't come to our government for relief and assistance’. The next day, when they have seen the damage they have done to themselves, they say exactly the opposite: ‘We take care of all in need’. Now what do they really mean?

People with moral convictions do not contradict themselves from day to day, leaders with a conscience are consistent and follow a clear line. They pursue the common good for the nation, they are not merely dispensers of favours to party friends and clients. They are statesmen, not political tricksters.

Desmond Tutu was a leader in the struggle. But he never sold his soul to the party. He retained his freedom to call a spade a spade, and corruption plain robbery.

Historians will argue for a long time whether Mwalimu did well to introduce 'Ujamaa' in Tanzania's villages. But at least Nyerere was genuinely motivated by the desire for justice and progress for his people. He was very outspoken in his criticism of colonialists. He made no bones about his disagreement with the Church on some of her policies. He was listened to because he was a serious Christian.

Listening to one's conscience does not come cheap. Thomas More served King Henry VIII very well as chancellor. But when his conscience forbade him to follow the King's command he acted with great courage. "We must obey God rather than any human authority" (Acts 5: 29). He ended in the Tower and was beheaded on Tower Hill.

In the last century a simple Austrian farmer took on the power and might of Hitler and refused to serve in his army. He followed his conscience which told him "You must not kill". Even churchmen cautioned him, 'Think of your wife and children'. He stuck to his No, knowing full well the price he would have to pay. He was guillotined. The Church has since rehabilitated this lonely witness to the power of conscience and honours him now as Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter.

Conscientious objectors took on the might of the US army and refused to serve in Vietnam and other futile American wars. They spent years in prison. When the US and Britain moved into Iraq they hoped for the Pope's blessing. He refused. "War never solves anything," the old man said who had known the horror of war in Poland as a young student.

It is the voice of conscience alone that can break the spiral of violence that perpetuates our misery.

Really great leaders have a vision and convictions for which they are ready to risk their careers and political lives, like Michael Gorbachov, the last Soviet leader, who introduced "Perestroika" and opened up an enclosed society.

Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer, post-war leaders of France and Germany respectively, agreed after three devastating wars between their countries in a hundred years that the only way forward was reconcilitation and economic integration.

In the end when all the fighting is done and many young men have died, propaganda and hate speech have fallen silent, there is only the round table as last resort. The great statesmen are not the generals and warmongers, but the bold men and women who call for peace and are ready to talk to the enemy.

We have not yet reached that stage. We are yet to achieve that boldness. We are still not serious. We are still playing cat and mouse games. Conscience still has to speak.

NewsDay

State and Religion – Competing Centres of Power?

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When rulers obsessed with power and addicted to “lording it over us” realize that ‘organized religion’ represents another centre of power , they want a share of it, in fact a big bite of it , want to invade it and take possession of it, “control-freaks” that they are.

Their approach is quite clever. They don’t wage war against the churches to try and destroy them – they know they can’t – but they take the church in a loving embrace so as to squeeze all life out of it. They try to pretend to be obedient followers of religion so that the religious people are obedient them and their kingdom as well.

Rulers and their henchmen, bodyguards and ‘praise singers’ (disguised as press officers) like to appear at religious functions and present themselves to the faithful as belonging to them even if they have to put on white gowns to make the point. In case people find this difficult to believe there are always armed guards around to suggest forcefully, “You had better, or else….”

In ancient times there were ‘priest kings’ in Egypt and Babylon, and the Roman Emperor was worshipped as a divine being, religion serving as a prop for political power. In our day dictators turn themselves into cult figures, and even elected leaders present themselves carrying Bibles to get the Bible readers’ vote.

During these days after Christmas we are confronted with a very interesting text from the Bible. Some learned scholars arrive in Jerusalem and look for the “newborn King of the Jews” in the palace of King Herod – where else? In fact they find him in Bethlehem in the arms, not of a princess, but of an ordinary girl; her husband is a carpenter, and they have found a roof over their heads in very modest surroundings.

King Herod’s paranoid suspicion causes a bloodbath as he tries to eliminate the baby who threatens his royal throne. As a matter of fact, as a grown man Jesus, though a descendant of King David, will have nothing to do with this kind of kingship. He will call another Herod 30 years later “this fox”.

The prophets before Jesus were no enthusiastic royalists. Samuel warned the people of Israel against having a king. He will take your sons and daughters as slaves and steal your fields,’ he told them ( cf. 1 Samuel 8: 10 ff.). David seemed a good king: at least he repented when he took Bathsheba and had her husband killed. His descendants committed much bigger crimes without repenting.

Jesus did not want to fight the Romans for political power. When they wanted to make him a king “he withdrew again to the mountain alone” (John 6: 15). He taught, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mark 12 : 17). Caesar’s empire and the kingdom of God are two different things and are ruled by different principles. Caesar must never try and control God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ followers will one day tell the authorities in Jerusalem, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5: 29). Christians are no anarchists (Rom. 13: 1), but in a conflict situation they follow God’s laws. The early Christians paid with their lives for their refusal to worship Caesar. They never forgot that Jesus does not approve of autocrats, “the kings of the Gentiles who lord it over them” (Luke 22: 25). He wants servant leadership, leaders who spend themselves in working for their people and the common good. As he did himself: he never lived in a palace, and he rode on a donkey, not a war horse.

If rulers want to be compared to Jesus they have to make a dramatic U-turn. They have to face the truth, past and present, and learn to heal rather than strike wounds, to reconcile with their enemies rather than indulge in hate speech, and to overcome their addiction to power, indeed, when the time has come, to let go of power altogether.

But let church leaders also be warned: if politicians are not to ‘co-opt’ the church for their purposes, you must not rule as they do either!

Satanism” : Beware of False Religion

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Religion and politics are topics people discuss very heatedly, or refuse to discuss altogether as something private and personal. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, a cynic in matters of belief, used to say, ”Let everyone find salvation in his own fashion”. He would have been amused by our multitude of noisy preachers competing like market vendors.

Current headlines give religion a bad name. Religion and sex is always an exciting mixture. People rush for "satanic" headlines selling rumours. Tabloid readers don't bother about the truth of the matter.

As a matter of fact, there are true and false beliefs, there is sound and corrupt religion. True religion is a gift given, it comes from God's initiative, it is our Creator revealing himself and speaking to us, his people; it is not a human invention or the product of clever brains.

We may admire “self-made men” (and women) in business, but a “self-made” prophet has nothing to offer, except in business terms. We have to ask critically: does this preacher have a mission? Who is sending him or her? What is their authority?

In true religion God makes himself known to those who want to know him and walk with him in life. ‘God is love’, and they want to know how to live in love. A religion that offers material gifts (health, wealth, good fortune) has not much interest in God, in love, in self-giving. It promises gifts, but disregards the Giver. It seeks benefits, not the Benefactor.

Certain preachers make the most fantastic, unlikely claims, since religion, in their view, demands blind faith, and you do not have to prove anything. They expect people to hand in their reasoning faculties at the entrance as they join their assembly.

True, “with God nothing is impossible”, but even God cannot contradict himself. Nor should believers. You cannot worship both God and money. You cannot seek God’s truth and sell yourself to evil spirits for material gain: the spirit people call ‘satan’ is ‘a liar from the beginning’. God is light and truth, and liars have no part in him.

True religion is not irrational. Though you cannot prove its truth like a mathematical formula, there are a few pointers which show us the way to the light. Where there is love and truth there is God. Leaders who corrupt love and turn it into cruel exploitation by duping gullible followers do not know God. So why follow them?

God is love, and he has created men and women in his image for love. “Prophets” who seduce and rape those in their care are false prophets. Their followers are misguided and deceived. They need to be freed out of the clutches of their captors.

Some argue that the State should do this and decide which religious movements are legitimate churches and which are not. They want a ministry of religious affairs to have control over believers and their activities.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and worship. Nevertheless, practices that are violent and against human dignity can never be tolerated. Religious leaders who have committed crimes must stand trial and receive their punishment if found guilty. That is enough. No special laws or legal provisions are needed. A new 'watchdog' bureaucracy could be misused by government to silence genuinely prophetic voices.

There are councils and alliances of churches which can decide whether a church can be called Christian or not. Church leaders may warn their own members and the public in general against clearly false leaders and their illegitimate “churches”.

At a time of economic decay and rampant unemployment running your own “church” must seem a good idea to some jobless clever persons. And there are plenty of poor, deprived people who look for solutions to their problems and listen to anyone bold enough to promise a paradise in this world (rather than in the next).

Some seem to have landed in hell while seeking heaven, just like youngsters seeking the good life in faraway places may fall into the hand of traffickers and end up in sex-slavery if they do not perish crossing the sea.

That indeed is satanic.



NEWSDAY

THE INDEPENDENCE THAT IS STILL TO COME

By Fr. Oskar Wermter SJ

This week I said farewell to an old friend who was going back to his life and work overseas. I will miss him, his family misses him, Zimbabwe needs him.

But I can’t blame him for having left. I think of another young friend of mine. He celebrated his graduation just now. His getting through college was a long and hard struggle for his family. The joy is great. He achieved what his father could only dream of. And yet, the battle is not won yet. Far from it. “Have you found a job yet?” It is impolite to ask this question as people rejoice in the academic success of their child. No, he has not found a job yet. He is trying like anybody else. Prospects? Uncertain. He may yet have to cross the Limpopo, even the Atlantic Ocean.

Independence 33 years ago did not bring Zimbabweans the freedom they longed for. “When we are the true owners of the land, we will be able to rebuild our lives.” Many restrictions were removed, true. “Our children will be able to go to school, college, university, anywhere they like. All jobs will be open to them.”

Now we know this has not happened. Too often the graduation ceremony with mortarboard and gown is the end of the road, not to think of the majority who never make it that far.

Discrimination in employment was abolished, of course. But now there is no employment. Who could have thought that? Unemployment is the great scourge of this country and Africa as whole, especially for young people who remain idle at a time when they should be creative and productive. But even their parents dread unemployment: you lose your job at 50 and you are finished.

But wait a minute! What are we talking about? Employment or work? That is not the same thing.

There is this woman in Mbare who has turned her living room into a mini-factory. All day long, in between cooking meals for her family, she is busy on her sewing machine making floppy hats for school children. She is not only a good seamstress, she is also a clever businesswoman. She has a market for her products. She heeds the slogan: ‘production is easy, marketing is the problem’. Her products are actually wanted. She is officially unemployed, and yet she works, perhaps harder than wage earners.

People seek employment so as to secure a regular income. Employees are prepared to do anything even though it is toil and drudgery, as long as they get their pay at the end of the month. And even if they don’t get it. They hang on in the hope the inept employer will pay up one day.

A nurse who sees a patient whom she has nursed over several weeks leave the hospital and go home – is she not happy that the woman she saw writhing with pain is now smiling and relaxed, ready to return to her family? Does she not feel at such a moment that the labour and toil of being a nursing sister is worth it, that such moments are its rewards?

The big question for Zimbabweans is this : do we have a vision for our country which is sick and needs healing? And do we want to work for this vision and make this patient well again and find joy in doing it, together and not in rivalry against each other?

Somebody told me Zimbabweans were like drowning men, each pushing the other down, as long as he himself survives.

What do MPs sit in parliament for? To get their benefits or to turn the country around, labour and toil for the common good? Now that they are scrambling to meet us because they want our votes and their benefits once more we must ask: what work did they do? Did they deserve their benefits?

Employment is no good if it serves no purpose. A civil servant may have an income, but if he has no concern for the people who come with legitimate demands to his office, no sense of justice, what do we pay him for? An official who keeps saying grumpily, “Not today, come next week” cannot be happy about the frustration he causes. But a cheerful one who is glad to help and happy about any satisfied client enjoys her work and deserves her wages.

Work for people with a vision is working for a better world, not just a better wage. Work in this sense is creative and productive for the community. Merely being employed, though it may mean sadza on the table, does not give us fulfilment. It means being dependent. Once employed you live in fear of being fired. You are not your own master. Depending on who you are employed by you have to hand in your conscience at the reception and do jobs you do not really approve of.

Going round the country we see so much that needs to be done, starting with resurfacing our roads and building new ones, building houses for the homeless (and not mansions and luxury flats for multiple home owners), rebuilding our water systems and providing people with energy at affordable costs.

Hiring ourselves out to interests that are not our own as employees, we may never be able to do what really needs to be done. When are we going to achieve our real independence and the freedom to work for what the country and its people really need?

The attached  article was published in NewsDay , 7 December 2013. It will also be available on my Facebook account.

 

NEWSDAY

IF THE LAW PROVES USELESS THROW IT AWAY

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

When in 2005 “illegal structures” that 700 000 Zimbabweans called “home” were demolished by police and army, the authorities claimed that they had to take this outrageous action out of respect for the Law.

The international community took a different view. The UN report on the ‘Operation Restore Order’ (‘Murambatsvina’) said, “ Operation Restore Order, while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks. ……The Government of Zimbabwe should set a good example and adhere to the rule of law before it can credibly ask its citizens to do the same.”

But this call made little difference. Nine years later Zimbabwean citizens are once more fearing for the roofs over their heads. Once more officials claim that they have to take these brutal measures of demolishing shelters and turning their occupants into persons “without fixed abode” and “fixed income” because it is the “Law”.

If the “Law” is having such terrible effects we must ask: what is the Law? Who has created it? Who is responsible for it? Who applies it? Why do we have to obey it? What is its authority?

There are basic human rights which merely spell out our fundamental right to life and liberty. Such fundamental rights go together with our basic human dignity which is “given” to us simply because we are human. It is not a privilege bestowed upon us by human agents.

One such right is spelled out in the ‘African Charter on human and peoples’ rights’: “all people have the right to a satisfactory environment in which they can develop” (article 24). Surely this includes basic shelter. Being forced to live in the open as a homeless person, without being offered alternative accommodation, is surely a breach of this basic rule. Our Constitution of 2013 says that “the State….must ….enable every person to have access to adequate shelter” (no 28). The powers of the State are limited as to eviction from shelter, “No person must be evicted from their home, have their home demolished, without an order of court, made after considering all the relevant circumstances” (no. 74). The powers of the State are limited because the State has no right to interfere with basic human dignity and rights “given” as part of our humanity.

Land, property and housing are also closely related to the family which is the basic building block of society, “It is desirable that every family should be able to acquire a home of its own, because home ownership contributes to the stability and welfare of the family which the State has a duty to foster and protect” (ZCBC, 1989). Depriving families of their homes is a severe blow against family life and society as a whole.

All the other laws are man-made, passed by men and women in parliament, legal instruments to serve the common good, the good of the nation. They do not have absolute authority and are not cast in stone like basic human rights.

They are means towards an end, instruments for a purpose. If they no longer serve that purpose they can be changed or abolished. Take the example of land laws. Land is supposed to produce food. Landowners who do not produce any food may be deprived of their (agricultural) land. Landownership is a means towards an end. If the end is not achieved, the land may be taken away from the current owners and put to better use for the common good of the nation. There is no absolute right to landownership.

Conversely, people must not be deprived of the land they are occupying if the housing built on that land does serve a good purpose, namely giving shelter to an otherwise homeless family. Even if the law says that the land in question is not lawfully acquired, this alone is no reason to demolish the house. Housing is so scarce it should be preserved as far as possible to lessen the housing shortage. The “illegal structure” can be legalized, unless there are some serious reasons against it (wetland, land earmarked for some public purpose like education or health care etc) .

Thousands of houses have been built illegally in communal lands. Are we going to sacrifice them all on the altar of “legality”? Clearly the law no longer fits the social and economic reality. Is it not better to change the law rather than to destroy extremely valuable and very much needed housing? Positive laws as produced by parliament are mere tools. If they don’t fit the purpose they can be discarded and replaced by something better.

Government officials condemning countless families to terrible misery of living out in the open with their belongings unprotected, pretend that they must adhere to the law as if it was something sacred. It is not. People are more important than the law. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 27). “Sabbath” here stands for “law”. “The law was made for man (and woman), not man (and woman) for the law”.

If some law forces a family to live on the banks of the Mukuvisi River then that law is plain nonsense and does not deserve to be respected. Or at least it is like a tool that is broken: throw it away.

What is the purpose of a government? To work for and achieve the common good of the nation, to produce prosperity, i.e. feed the people, provide them with health care, give the new generation a good education.

If it fails to do that, it is like a useless tool. Now apply your own logic to the performance of government, and you will know what needs to be done………….



NEWSDAY

OUR ECONOMY TO BE GUIDED BY CONSCIENCE

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Economists and social scientist have analyzed our economic malaise quite thoroughly. They show that blaming “sanctions” does not explain anything. “Looting” is reaching the end of the road. Only productivity creates real wealth.

But this is only at the surface. The real crisis goes deeper. It is so profound that arguments from “supply and demand”, “currencies and exchange rates” do not really get to the roots of our economic failure.

The real disease is moral corruption. Liars, frauds, crooks and thieves are in control in so many areas, the country has tipped over: there is more corruption than integrity, more falsehood than truth. People are told so many lies, they stop believing anything. The basic trust people must have in their institutions is disappearing.

People put their money in the bank because they trust they can get it back any time they need it. If the banks cannot or will not return it banking is finished. Business is based on trust. Once this trust is eroded banks stand empty and the money becomes worthless.

Since the decision-makers themselves believe their own false propaganda, their decisions are necessarily false. If you believe that “sanctions” have destroyed our currency, you will fight “sanctions” and miss the real cause which was spending money that did not exist (printing money without productivity to back it up).

A doctor who makes a wrong diagnosis will necessarily prescribe the wrong medicine.

If you walk in the darkness created by constantly telling lies and having lies told to you, you lose touch with reality. You are driven by imagined fears (‘recolonisation by the Brits’) and (mis)guided by your own false reasoning (‘taking from the haves will enrich the have-nots’ – in fact it leaves everyone poor, even the ‘looters’ on the day of reckoning).

We must once more respect the truth and value integrity and honesty. These are not marketable values, they have no price on the share index, you cannot trade them on the money market. And yet without them trade and commerce, business and industry collapse.

That is why we need free media that can conduct an unfettered debate about fair trade and expose corrupt practices, free and independent media that expose the lies of the high and mighty and shame the crooks and thieves.

That is why we need an independent judiciary and judges of integrity that have not been bought by their “employers” among politicians and government officials.

That is why we need men and women with a conscience who can tell the difference between right and wrong, between light and darkness, who strive to walk in the light of truth and shun the darkness of lies and deceit.

That is why we need leaders who prefer to work hard and live modestly rather than greedily enrich themselves with wealth they have not produced themselves, who feel shame if their excessively high income deprives poor children of schooling, who do not want to live in mansions while the homeless have their shacks demolished.

The world was given to all of us and its treasures must be shared in solidarity. Greed is the enemy and must be controlled as old Hebrew wisdom puts it:

Put falsehood and lying far from me,

Give me neither poverty nor riches;

Provide me only with the food I need;

Lest, being full, I deny you,

Saying, “Who is the Lord?”

Or being in want, I steal,

And profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30: 8)

There is a paradox here; for the visible, tangible material world to flourish, grow and be productive we need to respect spiritual and moral values which are invisible.

Respect the great gift of language and of words, do not distort them. Use them to express what is true, not to use them for false propaganda and for deception and fraud: we need “word smiths” who have a passion for the truth – some journalists the world over lose even their lives in their passion to find out the truth and expose falsehood.

We need leaders prepared to listen and hear the truth from their fellow citizens; we need entrepreneurs who use capital for creating wealth for the people as a whole, knowing full well that they will have to give an account at the end about how they have shared the treasures of this beautiful country with all its citizens. Such a spirit of solidarity is the best protection against greed and grabbing what is not ours.

You drive safely only by respecting the rules of the Highway Code. You arrive safely at the end of life’s journey only if you respect some basic rules the Creator has put into your heart and your conscience, like: respect this earth and all its treasurers, share it with your companions on the journey (“You must not steal”), or: walk in the light of truth, face up to the reality of this world, and use your reason to make the correct decisions for the benefit of all (”Do not give false witness”).

NewsDay

My Memory – a Cemetery

I don’t know when it happens. But sometime as you grow old you begin to have more friends that are dead than friends that are alive and still with you. You may say: if you grow quite old that is mathematically inevitable. I say: No, it happens too soon. Too many of these dead friends might still be alive. Why?

When I drive along the highways and byways of this country I keep passing by “dark spots” where old friends perished. At this point Thomas was pushed off the road by a speeding articulated lorry, thrown into the ditch, dead on the spot. At this junction another friend was hit by an arrogant luxury car. His brain damage was so severe, he died three hours later in the nearby district hospital.

Our road network is a graveyard. This time you may still get away with the bad habit of crossing an unbroken white line while racing uphill. But the day will come when you have a far too close encounter with an oncoming truck….

There are memories which will stay with me until my own end: the farm lorry that missed the bridge and overturned, seven dead, and many more injured. I was on the spot and helped carry the wounded to the hospital.

Can I forget the body of the dead woman dumped into a corner of “Casualties”, the staff being too busy attending to those still alive to take her to the mortuary?

I cannot drive past a certain spot in the Nyanga mountains without reliving the horror of ninety students dying when their speeding bus overturned, fell on its roof and killed all inside.

I bet most of you, my dear readers, will say that these things just happen, there is nothing one can do, it’s just ‘fate’ , inevitable and bound to happen. Just pray it does not happen to you or your loved ones.

With due respect, I do not agree with you. I just cannot accept this shoulder-shrugging indifference. And I do not believe in witches either. My background and upbringing have taught me to dig a bit more deeply. I am a man of faith, but also of reason. Mere ‘good luck’ or ‘bad luck’ are not good enough as explanations. They explain nothing.

I still remember driving from Rushinga to Mount Darwin when I observed two rural buses chasing each other, one overtaking at a sharp corner, the other one catching up with his rival at the next bend. It was perfectly clear what they were doing, no witchcraft involved: they were chasing money in the shape of paying passengers. Maybe the drivers were not even the main culprits but the bus company owners.

I remember a bus driver relaxing in his village somewhere along the “Alpha trail” going down to Muzarabani. He was resting for a few days after driving his bus non-stop for ten days from Harare to Chipinge and back, day and night, sleeping only a couple of hours, maybe not at all. It was not his fault, he said. Company policy. Refusing to accept this cruel regime would have meant losing his job. - A fortnight later his bus collided head-on with another bus on the road between Beitbridge and Masvingo, all 26 people on board dead, my friend, the driver, being one of them.

The Zimbabwean

Constitution Guaranteeing Shelter to the Homeless

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Landlords throw tenants out onto the street in freezing temperatures, with their furniture, with small children, pregnant wives and ancient grandmothers, the lot. A minister keeps threatening that he will order the demolition of “illegal housing”, forgetting that his party gave the building plots to the “settlers”, now found to be “illegal”, as a pre-election bribe.

I don’t care that the landlord and the minister may be, legally speaking, in the right. Maybe the law is on their side, but then sometimes “the law is an ass”. It may be lawful and yet immoral. Their lawyer may win, but humanity is being defeated.

Remember “Operation Clean-up”/”Murambatsvina”? Government claimed it was only enforcing the law, and yet the United Nations, through their Tanzanian representative Anna Tibaijuka, condemned the campaign in humanitarian terms as a “disastrous venture based on a set of colonial-era laws”.

The Constitution of 2013 lists Shelter as a basic human right. “The State ….must…enable every person to have access to adequate shelter” (chapter 2, no. 28). The “African Charter on human and peoples’ rights” to which our government is a signatory says the same (article 24).

Such basic law based on human rights overrules positive law which in fact should be adjusted so as to be in conformity with the Constitution.

Even if an eviction of lodgers or occupants of land can be justified as necessary for the common good, e.g. if occupation of a certain plot endangers the communal water supply and hygiene, the actual resettlement must be carried out in a humane manner, above all alternative accommodation must be provided; no one should be forced to squat in subhuman conditions out in the open.

There are certain basic standards of decency we all have to observe. Why is it that rich landowners who reside in luxury mansions should have the least respect for what humanity requires?

Our dirty secret is that he ruling party voted for the 2013 Constitution for political reasons, without respect for the moral principles contained in it. In fact the party has its own basic law which it observes religiously: cling to power by any means! Which is why working for “regime change”, even thinking or talking about it, is a criminal offence in their eyes.

“Regime change”, of course, is a basic democratic procedure. To make it go smoothly, without violence or bloodshed, we have elections. A friend recently asked, “When do you think we have a mature democracy?” And he supplied the answer himself, ”When a governing party which originated in the war of liberation is defeated in elections, accepts the defeat and hands over power graciously to the winner, willingly moving to the opposition benches”.

The Constitution is supposed to be the one thing in our democracy which we all agree on, whatever else may divide us. It is the common ground on which we all stand, the party in power as well as the opposition.

But our Constitution is not accepted by all. The ruling party has its own unwritten “constitution”, or let us say basic guiding principle of all their political action: our “revolutionary” party must retain power! Which means anyone not a “revolutionary” can be disregarded, disenfranchised, even deprived of citizenship.

By contrast the Constitution of 2013 states :”Every person has the right to life” (48). “Every person has inherent dignity in their private and public life, and the right to have that dignity respected and protected” (51). “Every person” means regardless of political affiliation, religion, gender, ethnic background etc. “No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances” (74).

Were those railway workers in Lochinvar and their families who were evicted from their lodgings and dumped in the open , to quote a random example, respected as persons and citizens with rights as regards life, health, privacy, shelter? (See NewsDay, 14 June 2014).

The Constitution of 2013 seems to be merely a set of beautiful principles, kept on a bookshelf, to be shown visitors to this country who want proof of the “Rule of Law” before they release funding. But in actual fact, the Constitution has not yet arrived where the people are and is not yet effective in protecting them from harassment.

Our “lawgivers” should be busy adjusting all legislation that is at variance with provisions of the Constitution. That is what they are being paid for. They should not complain about non-payment of their allowances if they have not done their work yet.

We cannot expect the parties to really devote themselves to the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy and therefore to saving the lives of the people before their respective party congresses have decided on their future leaders. In the meantime the political class remains embroiled in sterile infighting.

However the ordinary people remain “sheep without a shepherd”, whether in Chitungwiza, Lochinvar or wherever. Will their elected representatives not think of their “duties” towards them as they have sworn in their oath of office (Constitution, pp. 162/3)? The voters have reason to challenge those they voted for to act on their behalf.

There is a prophetic word, “No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them” (Ezechiel 34: 10). This should encourage the people not to accept their leaders’ inaction lying down.

STATE ANARCHY : CAN THE CHURCH DO BETTER?

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

In many countries the people are disappointed by their leaders who failed to keep the promises they made at the time of Independence.

Many consider politics a dirty game for dishonest, selfish people who play power politics just for their own private interests, without regard for the people who have voted them into office.

Some people are so disaffected that they do not want to vote again and consider elections a waste of time and money. They feel leaders are corrupt and dishonest, they lie unashamedly and contradict their own rules concerning free and fair elections (SADC!).

The only alternative seems to be to join the “ruling party” and take advantage of the situation by becoming clients of the “big men” and sell themselves to them in exchange for “favours”. But people with self-respect do not want to do that.

Liberation might never have happened. People have lost faith in the state, its constitution and laws. It is a lawless, anarchic situation. It is a situation of despair and of complete loss of hope.

The Church is called upon to give hope where there is only cynicism and despair. The Church must show a way forward where people see no light.

But first the Church must restore her own INTEGRITY.

The danger is not that the State will persecute and suppress the Church. The danger is that governments try to “co-opt” the Church and make her part of the system, by giving favours to the Church. Individual church members, clerical or lay, go to state officials and ask for special favours (passports, immigration matters, building permissions, subsidies) and by so doing become part of a corrupt and corrupting network of “good relations” . A basic rule of such networks is that you get “nothing for nothing, and only something for something”.

Once you accept “favours” you have to pay for them sometime by doing government favours in return, e.g. by singing the praises of government, paying compliments to leaders, being seen with them in public in animated conversation as between friends, by curtailing your public criticism etc.

The Church is also vulnerable if there are scandals (sexual abuse, financial mismanagement, embezzlement of church funds etc.). As long as the Church is trying to please government, government is keeping silent. But if the Church speaks up and denounces corruption, mismanagement, bad governance etc, leaders unearth those sins of the Church and publicize them to embarrass and discredit her mercilessly.

The Church can only demand accountability and transparency if she practices these virtues herself. Is the Church accountable to her own people about the use of donated funds?

We as Church must teach sound principles of dealing with the life of the community, public affairs and society as a whole on all levels. Many Christians still refuse to accept such teachings and reject them as “politics”.

One of the greatest failures of post-independent governments is that they do not aim at the Common Good and fail to show Solidarity with all citizens, especially the poor and disadvantaged (they only consider their own interests and those of their “clients” who keep them in power).

These two fundamental values of the Church’s Social Teaching are not only to be realized on the highest level of the State, but even in families, parishes, dioceses, in local communities and provinces – everywhere. They are values which traditional African culture knew very well. They just must go beyond family, clan and ethnic boundaries.

This is not to say that the Church should only operate in public by denouncing politicians and exposing their crimes. There must be direct dialogue with them, especially the more responsible ones, through contact offices. Bishops and other church representatives must meet with government in an open atmosphere where they can “call a spade a spade, and corruption theft and thuggery”.

More thought has to be given to effective communication. Long public statements once a year which media find boring and some priests refuse to publicize for fear of incurring the wrath of politically partisan church members or local politicians are not the only way. The Social Gospel can be propagated also through leaflets, songs, DVDs, social media, etc.

Christians must above all read the Scriptures and understand the prophetic message of Justice contained in both the Old and New Testament. Here a random example, “Your princes are rebels/ and comrades of thieves;/each one of them loves a bribe/ and looks for gifts. / The fatherless they defend not,/ and the widow’s plea does not reach them.” (Isaiah 1 : 23). Jesus called tyrannical King Herod “this fox”.

Just apply these words to our situation, and the Bible becomes subversive literature.

The aim must always be to give hope to the people, to show them there is an alternative to the present rotten politics and to give them courage to involve themselves in public affairs and not run away from social responsibility.



ST JOSEPH’S THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE, Cedara, KwaZulu-Natal, SA

SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE , 24 – 26 April 2014

Theme: The Response of the Church to Globalisation in Africa

Migration: the People of Africa on the Move in the Context of Globalisation

Paper presented by Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Pastoral Department IMBISA Secretariat, Harare, Zimbabwe

Rooted in the Land of their Ancestors

The people of Africa are attached to their home village. Traditionally land was no marketable commodity , but precious all the same. “They had inherited it from their ancestors who were buried in this land. The present owner would pass it on to their children, to find their final rest in it” 1. After decades of working in faraway cities they would return to their home village in old age. Even those deceased in foreign lands, their bodies are brought back for burial at home at great cost. Deprived of their land by colonialists, the wars of independence were often about regaining the ancestral land.



And yet on the move

The Bantu speaking people moved from Central Africa southwards. In the 19th century the Nguni people moved northwards to what is now Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Mzilikazi led his Matabele warriors across the Limpopo to occupy what is now the South-west of Zimbabwe.

“Nearly all Zimbabweans are migrants - the Shona people moving here after
about 1200 AD, the Ndebele arriving in strength after about 1830, the
whites from about 1700 (Portuguese and others) and the Anglophile
migrations starting after about 1850 in the form of missionaries, hunters
and adventurers. We all come from somewhere else.”2

The colonial powers forced rural African men into paid labour on mines, farms and factories, even across state boundaries.



Migration in Independent Africa

Independence has by no means put an end to migration. Both highly educated, professional people and less skilled or unskilled people are on the move within Africa, or leave Africa and seek work and a better way of life overseas. In 2010 “South Africa was the single largest asylum destination in the world followed by the USA. South Africa received 222 000 out of the 922 000 applications” for asylum3.

Fr Michael Bennett SPS, Tzaneen Diocese, reports about ordinary Zimbabwean refugees trying to enter South Africa: “Chipo has one child. She was abandoned by her husband who had taken another woman. She came to South Africa in August 2007, crossing the dangerous Limpopo River near Beit Bridge in the process. (Most cross where the water is low and cut through the fencing wire on the South African side. Despite this, a number of ZImbabweans are known to have drowned in crossing. Some have been eaten by crocodiles.) She reported that at that time there was a barrier across the river at one point which acted as a mesh for trapping any material carried by the waters. This was regularly checked for bodies of dead Zimbabweans. Because the bodies lack identity they usually receive a pauper’s burial. - Rumbidzai has four children in Zimbabwe. She crossed the Limpopo River in August 2009. She referred to gangs of ‘tsotsi’ (thieves) on the South African side, waiting to dispossess unsuspecting Zimbabweans of their possessions and transport money.”4

The Zimbabwean Bishops quote a report by Medicins san Frontieres, “Last night we learned of a large group of women and children who attempted to swim across the crocodile-infested Limpopo river to reach South Africa, only to fall prey to local bandits known as ‘gumaguma’. Five of the women who crossed were raped, and two babies were literally taken off their mothers’ backs and thrown into the river to drown.” 5

23 Zimbabwean illegal miners, all young men below 30, died in disused mineshaft. “There are reports that the Zimbabwean miners unwittingly exposed
themselves to deadly gas in a bid to evade arrest by the South African
police force…..South African police were reportedly waiting for the miners to emerge from the shaft to arrest them, as they had no proper documentation to live in South Africa.
A businessman said the tragedy should be a message to the South African
government to recognise that `illegal' foreigners had the potential to
contribute positively to the country's economy and regularise their stay
in the country.”6

Any kind of war or armed conflict drives people to safe places. “Since mid-January, an estimated 2000 people have fled fighting between the government and former rebels in Mozambique [|Frelimo and Renamo], spilling into neighbouring Malawi.” 7



Sending and Receiving Countries

Rich countries attract people from poorer countries, productive economies attract workers from regions with great unemployment, more open societies attract people living under oppressive regimes. Developed industrial countries attract people from less developed, pre-industrial regions. Labour ( note the impersonal expression) moves as if under physical pressure.

Many of the prosperous societies are on the defensive, like “Fortress Europe”.

Pope Francis addressed the problem primarily of the receiving countries when he visited Lampedusa, the little island in the Mediterranean which refugees from Africa try, and very often fail, to reach. Just at that time hundreds had drowned in the sea. Francis spoke to the people of the western world,” God is asking each of us: ‘Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?’ Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: ‘poor soul…!’, and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort …. results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. “

But the problem exists also within Africa. South Africa is a receiving country because it is more developed and people from the north hope to benefit from its progress. Xenophobia was the reaction to more and more foreign jobseekers competing with the locals.

The fate of refugees, economic or political, features in much of Africa’s literature. “Outside, the sight makes his stomach turn. A weapon-brandishing crowd. Spears. Machetes. Sticks. Axes. Knives. Knobkerries. Fleeing bodies. Falling bodies. Bloodied bodies. Screams, pleas for mercy; please please please! And the shouting: Go, get out, go back to your countries! Go! Method does not move from underneath his blankets, though people are inside his shack, screaming at him. ….Then he feels something wet and the smell of petrol stings his nose. His heart pounds in terror. He does not know when the match lands on his shirt but suddenly he is on fire” 8.

Arriving in Europe , a woman was shocked “when she was taken to a detention centre, ‘I did not know why I was locked up – no one explained why I was in detention’.” Detained people felt this was unjust, “a far cry from the reception they had hoped for” 9.

No longer welcome in their own country, they learn on arrival on foreign shores that they are not welcome there either. “No ‘red carpet’ awaited them outside the borders of their land. The efforts of Church bodies, some government and NGO groups tempered matters in an alien situation. Yet, at various junctures of their outward experience, a culture of exploitation, opportunism and indifference confronted

them. Four consistent features of this experience - crossing of borders, accessing shelter, legalising one’s status and searching for work - have been observed in the southern diaspora and are noted below.”10
But our topic is the impact of migration on Africa. First we have to ask why so many African people leave their homelands and take enormous risks in crossing deserts, crocodile-infested rivers and the high seas in order to reach the country of their dreams.

What makes people leave their home, country, continent?

Pope John Paul II said already in 1997, “Violence sometimes obliges entire populations to leave their homeland to escape repeated atrocities; more frequently, it is poverty and the lack of prospects for development which spur individuals and families to go into exile, to seek ways to survive in distant lands, where it is not easy to find a suitable welcome.” Just at this moment we see thousands being displaced by a fratricidal war, triggered off by the rivalry of two men, in South Sudan, in the Central African Republic etc.

Fr Michael Bennett SPS, Tzaneen, writes, ”Zimbabwean migrants are resilient. They do struggle and suffer, often greatly in a foreign land. Work is seasonal, thus there are times when there is no work and no income. The struggles and hardships of Zimbabwean migrants are an extension of the ongoing economic and political malaise in Zimbabwe. The political class in Zimbabwe have no interest in their people on this side of the border.” 11

The Zimbabwean Bishops describe the mental processes that eventual led to the departure of so many,

“As the fabric of society weakened, and with no relief in sight, the hopes of many people faded. Efforts to break the political impasse were inconclusive. False dawns failed to deliver on hopes awakened. People lost trust in political leaders. The cry of despair was heard and continues to be heard: What can I do? How can I help my family? Whether to stay or to go became a painful dilemma that many a Zimbabwean breadwinner had to face. To stay for some meant risking destitution; to go involved a wrench with all one had known.

Many educated people left and succeeded in starting a new life in distant lands where English is spoken as a first or second language, especially in the UK, US, Australia and the Middle-East. This ‘brain-drain’ caused a serious gap within the professions in Zimbabwe, one that makes economic and social renewal all the more challenging. The vast majority of Zimbabweans, however, migrated south and their experience is a central feature of this letter. While this number included professionals, an infinitely greater number were less well- educated, semi-skilled or unskilled; dispossessed and desperate; hungry and homeless. The majority were young men, but there were also many young women - some with children, and a number of unaccompanied minors, boys and girls under 18 years of age. While not wishing to abandon their beloved country, these migrants felt abandoned by it.” “12


It is a world-wide, global problem. Africa is affected by it more than most. People flee from their own countries because of “poverty in its various forms. Violence, exploitation , discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, ….Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate.” 13 Desperation makes people take great risks. Girls and women may fall into the hands of human traffickers and sexual slavery. The work of religious women to free them out of such bondage is well-known (e.g. Nigerian women caught up in the Italian sex trade).

Such situations of course are not natural disasters, they are man-made. They are the result of bad governance. People run away from “failed states”, from civil wars and economic collapse.


Migrants abandoned by their own countries”
Pope Francis remarked some time ago that the two greatest social problems in the world are the lack of work for the young and the isolation of the old. The former means that the majority of young people never enter the world of work. Their elders and leaders tell them: there is no place for you in this world; you are not wanted; you are superfluous; the world would be better off without you; go away!

This is a terrible, outrageous thing to tell young people just starting off in life. It is also an ungodly thing to say to them, because God the Creator has given them life and bodily and mental strength and many other gifts to use in this life which must not be wasted.

“Nearly 90 % of the world’s youth live in poorer countries. The well-recognized connection between poverty, violent conflict and forced migration means that adolescents and youth often constitute the majority of both displaced and host populations. In violent conflict, it is mostly adolescents and youth – female and male – who are conscripted into armed groups or targeted for sexual violence, who lose the guidance of adults and clear social boundaries during their formative years, and who are left to fend for themselves in alien settings.” 14
“We all come from somewhere else” (Eddie Cross). So who is really indigenous? Who has a birthright to live in the country where they happen to be? Who is beyond doubt part of the people that make up the people of this or that particular country? Who can claim full ownership? In certain countries of Africa parties opposed to the rulers tried to disqualify them by claiming that they were not true citizens of the country they were ruling and therefore should be removed.
Migrant labour has resulted in complete mix of different ethnicities. Alleged immigrants are told, ‘You are not one of us. You have no right to be here, to own land, to vote, or to be voted for.’
Who is really a citizen with full rights? The farm labourers on commercial farms in Zimbabwe, mostly immigrants from Malawi or Mozambique, were deprived of their

citizenship. When their white bosses had their farms taken from them labour sided with the ‘baas’ to keep their jobs. So they were declared traitors and enemies of the state. Anyone not voting for the “revolutionary party” was declared a traitor, no longer a citizen of the country. Minorities in many countries fell foul of the big men of politics and found themselves deprived of their rights as citizens and stateless.


In so many countries you are first and foremost a member of an ethnic group, of a political party or both, and only secondarily a citizen.

In a proper state you should be first and foremost a citizen with unalienable rights, and only secondarily a person with an ethnic or political identity. As a matter of fact, according to most Constitutions you are a citizens with unalienable rights. But Constitutions are not taken seriously. They are merely decorative to show to foreign visitors, UN agencies and NGOs.

The citizenry is not one body, all-inclusive, regardless of background. There are cracks running through this body, and dividing lines, so people are always divided into “us and them”. Only “us” are safe, whereas “them” are dispensable, and in a crisis are declared scapegoats and victims which can be got rid of.

Many emigrants lose their voting rights at home, without gaining the right to participate in the public affairs of their country of refuge. Migrants are at best tolerated, but they have no right in any way to determine their own future or to be active citizens involved in public affairs either in their home country or the country that receives them. African liberation and independence has not benefitted them. They are global non-citizens.


Poverty and lack of production

The “ruling party” survives in power because it lays hands on existing wealth and distributes it to its clients, thus buying their loyalty and support. Corruption is tolerated among one’s clients. As a result there is no production, in fact in some countries there is de-industrialisation. The leading “elite” lives in luxury using donor funds to satisfy the unemployed and deprived loyal to the party (“politicized food aid”)15.

But if you do not belong to the clients you have little choice but looking for a living beyond the borders. Ex-farm labourers belong to this group and members of minority parties without “connections”.

If young people observe that rich people acquire their wealth through corruption, not through honest work, and are denied access to the world of work anyway, they will never develop a good work ethic and will end up, not only unemployed, but unemployable.


Failed states”

Being a citizen with all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution offers you no protection. This weakness of citizenship is an indication that the State and its structures are weak. Ethnic and political loyalties mean more than having a passport. If you happen to belong to an unpopular ethnicity or party they can even deny you a passport. So you have to swim the Limpopo or sneak across borders condemned to the state of an “undocumented foreigner”.

Human rights as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations to which all African countries belong have little juridical force. Even if they are justiciable and a constitutional court takes your side, the politicized law enforcers will ignore the judgment. There is no “rule of Law”, no “separation of powers”. Once you are known as an opponent of the “ruling party” you have no future in the country and had better think of going into exile.
The “ruling elite” sheds few tears about the loss of millions of potential voters of the opposition parties. Good riddance, they say, the emigrants would only have worked for “regime change”. And the remittances they send to their families give the regime the foreign currency it needs for survival.
The greatest asset of a country is its own people”

“The experience of being unwanted has been worsened by the overall failure of political discourse within Zimbabwe to focus with serious intent on the exodus of its people. The greatest asset of any country is its own people. Very few politicians have visited border areas, or crossed borders to witness at first hand the situation of their fellow Zimbabweans .” 16

A leader of the Zimbabwean “revolutionary party” said once that his country would be better off with only 6 million loyal party supporters rather than with 12 million not so loyal. In other words: political opponents do not deserve to live.

Undoubtedly this experience of “being unwanted” is the experience of many Africans across the continent. Ethiopians crossing from north to south with the aim of entering South Africa, South Sudanese trying to reach the Mediterranean – the list is very long.


Never to be colonized again”

Anti-imperialists across the continent raise their fists and swear , “We will never be colonized again”. That is true as far as the old colonial powers are concerned. But why do China and other East Asian countries have such a strong presence in Africa? The poor of the South are attracted by the wealth of the North, and the weakness of Africa attracts the new powerhouses of Asia.

What is their long-term aim? There have been attempts already to buy up huge tracts of African land for agribusiness to produce food for the “Asian Tigers” who are too busy at home with producing high technology to bother with agriculture.

This would mean displacement of rural dwellers in huge numbers. Is this what we want? Is not agriculture (and mining) the basis of our economy?

We have experienced such displacement in various countries when large dams were built for producing electricity, e.g. Kariba dam straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Fishermen were removed from the banks of the Zambezi and forced to become agriculturists on a dry high plateau.

This also is migration though for the sake of “development”. “Development induced displacement usually goes hand-in-hand with coercion, threats, violence and corruption”17.

Go from your Country and your Father’s House to the Land that I will show you”(Genesis 12: 1) – ABRAHAM the father of all migrants

Young people love to travel. Most people decide on migration because they want to improve, or at least save, their lives. Travellers establish lines of communication. Without them we would have remained in isolation from one another. It started in Europe to discover the New World. Now the New World takes over Europe. There are now more Zimbabweans in Britain than there ever were Britons in Zimbabwe.

The Bible, as the account of God walking with his people through history, is full of travelling stories. The Exodus is the great metaphor for liberation.

Jesus started out in life as a refugee child. He spent his public ministry as a migrant, for ever pushing on restlessly, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns…” (Mark 1: 38).

The first Christians called themselves simply the people of the WAY (cf. Acts 9: 2).

Devout migrants go on Pilgrimage to holy places. The Church is a pilgrim Church, and the life of a believer is a journey.

To be People on the Move is deeply human, and fulfills a human longing. Migrants are not just miserable creatures we feel sorry for, they are our heroes and they bring treasures of wealth and experience from foreign countries.

The Zimbabwean Bishops do not see cowards in them, to be written off and forgotten in their homeland. “As bishops, we wish to affirm that those in the diaspora are Godly human beings, made in his image and likeness. They are not a number or a statistic on some foreign shore. They are not stateless people. They belong to the state of Zimbabwe. They are our concern. We embrace them as one of us. They must not be forgotten. This letter is a testament to our desire to acknowledge their existence, their story, their pain, their resilience and their hope”18.

Abraham, that migrant in obedience to God, left for the land he was to be shown in faith and hope. So what hope do we have for migrants and for Africa as a continent of migration?

The most important Good News for migrants, refugees, travellers, globetrotters, migrants is that your God and Redeemer has not forgotten you. The God of Israel travelled with his people living in a tent. The Son of God who walked this earth always on the move is walking with us all our lives until the end: he is the one waiting for us at the end of the journey; he has an eternal home ready for us. He is the fulfillment of all our longing for a better home. This makes all migrants infinitely precious in the eyes of God and therefore in our eyes as God’s people. We must be hospitable and always be ready for God’s pilgrim people.


Migrants – A gift to the World
Migrants are seen as a burden, disturbing the peace by criminal behaviour, beggars demanding to be maintained by our resources, a strain on our social welfare budget, dangerous aliens questioning our cultural identity (e.g. Muslims in traditionally Christian countries).

But they are also a gift and an enrichment: African Christians rescue European Christians out of lethargy and fatigue with their vitality, enthusiasm and joy. They give birth to children because they are people of hope in spiritually impoverished countries where people have little hope and births no longer make up for deaths.

Most importantly of all, they are ambassadors of their countries to their host countries and break down barriers. If well received they should show the positive face of globalization. “Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery : a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland and every homeland is a foreign country,” Pope Francis said. 19

They are also a gift to their home countries. They save their own families at home from starvation and misery. Their support gives hope where there is desolation.

Those who eventually return should be positive agents of development, better than NGOs and foreign development agents, and connect their home countries with the countries of their exile.
Country of birth – a gift and a duty?

The bishops addressing their people in the diaspora did not write them off. Other than their political leaders they want them back, and keep the door open.

Can we still say in this globalized world where people are constantly on the move crossing borders that the country of my birth has a moral claim on me? That I have a duty to support, develop, defend my home country and make it grow? That it is a gift the Creator gave me as a life’s task which I must not run away from if I can help it? In other words, is Africa a task the Lord of history has given us, forbidding us to write it off? Is he not tasking us with developing the rich potential of this continent where he has placed us by birth or by vocation? 20
For a Christian this is a question of spiritual discernment. If the world is becoming more open and borders can be crossed more easily, border fences becoming even irrelevant in some parts (but are they? Some borders are ever more strongly fortified it seems!) , we thank the Lord and Creator of this world for this new freedom and growth of worldwide unity and mutual acceptance.

Physical forces seem to be sucking people from the poorer to the more prosperous countries. Can we resist this force and move in the opposite direction because Africa needs us, our brothers and sisters at home waiting for us?

There is a danger that African immigrants in western industrialized countries adopt the selfish thinking of their “throw-away culture” (Pope Francis), of consumerism and of material gain at all costs, even at the cost of “throwing away” human beings not needed by a tyrannical market.

But if the traditional love of family and community, transformed and fortified by the love of Christ for “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” , survives the challenge of the “throw-away culture”, Africans in the diaspora may well decide to go home because Africa needs them and the Lord sends them.

The point is debated by Chipo, a stay-at-home, and Darling, who has fled to America. Darling moans about the bad things “they have done to our country. All the suffering I say.” Chipo is not impressed, “Why did you run off to America, Darling Nonkululeko Nkala, huh? Why did you just leave? If it’s your country, you have to love to live in it and not leave it. You have to fight for it no matter what, to make it right. Tell me, do you abandon your house because it’s burning or do you find water to put out the fire?21
Tackling the Root Cause of Emergency Emigration : War and Poverty
The positive side of globalization is that we recognize our mutual interdependence and need for cooperation (which must be distinguished from exploitation of the weaker by the stronger trading nations). “Such cooperation begins with efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions at home, so that emigration will not be the only option left for those who seek peace, justice, security and full respect of their human dignity. The creation of opportunities for employment in the local economies will also avoid the separation of families and ensure that individuals and groups enjoy conditions of stability and serenity”22.
The Bishops of Zimbabwe have for years emphasized that moral and spiritual decay is causing the political and economic decay of their country. A democracy is based on universal ethical values, especially on respect for persons and their human dignity. The economy is not a machine within which people are mere cogs, but an instrument serving the needs of the people. Everywhere the people must be paramount. “Money must serve, not rule” Pope Francis has demanded 23 much to the consternation of the financial world. The Bishops of Africa do not want the “human person reduced to an economic value” 24.

The exodus of “unwanted citizens” from their home countries can only be stopped if their human dignity is recognized and their infinite value as sons and daughters of God is respected.

In constitutional and political terms this means that their citizenship must be untouchable: as citizens they must be protected by the Constitution, as citizens they have equal rights, and no one must be reduced to a second-class citizen for ethnic, religious, ideological or political reasons. The sovereignty of a country rests on its true owners, i.e. all its citizens, and no one must be excluded. Economically citizenship with equal rights must be supported in social and economic policies meant for the Common Good.

Africa has fought the evil of discrimination, especially in Southern Africa. Now the former freedom fighters discriminate among their fellow citizens themselves for reasons of power: they call the citizenship of their political opponents into doubt. Ethnic and political discrimination splits the nation and deprives citizens of their rights. Belonging to an ethnic or political faction counts for more than citizenship. The support of one’s own clients is bought with “favours” which is one of the root causes of corruption which in turn ruins the economy.

Discrimination widens the gap between rich and poor. “The structural violence of injustice generates the violence of revolt, leading to the violence of repression and further structural violence, which then repeats the cycle. …the great gap between rich and poor generated violence” 25.
The Truth is Concrete”26 and must Result in Action

If we really want to stop the ongoing tragedy of refugees drowning off Malta and Lampedusa or, nearer home, in the Limpopo, we need to make our social teaching politically and economically effective.

We understand what is happening, and we can show that the reasoning of neoliberal economists (“trickle down effect”, autonomous market etc) is false.

We know that even the market needs ethics and that good governance is based on respect for the dignity of every person and all citizens.

But we have failed dismally in making our teaching known, firstly to our own Catholics and fellow Christians, and secondly to our fellow citizens, including their political leaders.
We have to start at home. Christians believe in work and using their God-given talents, not in miracles (“Gospel of Prosperity”) and in “getting rich quick” tricks. South Africa is being de-industrialized, our minerals and raw materials are being sold cheaply without having been processed. Greedy people are laying their hands on what others have produced. But the truth is that we can only create wealth by becoming productive ourselves. Do we have to go to the US or Britain to learn what work is? Is that the hidden reason for migration?

The Church has the insights, but do we have the teachers? So many Catholics do not want to hear about “social justice”. It is “political”, and therefore “sensitive” and “untimely”. Priests do not read out or make accessible their Bishops’ messages for fear of attacks by party thugs (admittedly in some places a genuine risk) or upsetting those of their parishioners who have “ruling party” loyalties.

Africa is considered a “failed continent”, politically and economically just a “bad dream” by the rest of the world. The people are losing hope and are writing off politics as a dirty business. The present leaders fight each other and neglect their real task of leadership in developing the country for the good of all. For many the Church (or churches) are the only hope. We need to show them an alternative to the present failure.

We teach the children the Ten Commandments. But do we ever point out to our fellow Christians that they contain a political programme? What would happen to our state controlled media and their political masters if they observed the commandment “You must not give false witness”? What would happen to the political class if they acted on the commandment “You must not steal, you must not covet your neighbour’s wife and property”?

Maybe we are embarrassed and too ashamed to teach the people such catechism truths because even within the Church we are not so “accountable and transparent” as we tell the political class they ought to be.
Plan of Action

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10: 19) the Israelites were reminded. St Paul told the early Christians, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12: 13). “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6: 31). If we want our brothers and sisters to be received well wherever they go, we must be hospitable to strangers arriving at our doorsteps.

Africa used to dream Pan-African dreams of black solidarity. The African Union still stands for that vision. But it is not real. And yet our dream should be to give our people continent-wide Pan-African citizenship and equip them with passports acceptable on the whole continent. In fact we only allow people of our tribe, political party or social class to enter our sphere of interest, e.g. mineral-rich provinces.

The Church should be radically different, recognizing in every stranger a child of God created in his image. We should offer the radical alternative of the Kingdom of God which has roots already in the Church through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

We have the message, but we do not manage to get it across. We know from the media: it is easy to produce magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc, distribution is the problem.

As part of the New Evangelization we must devise new methods and strategies how to get the message of human dignity and human rights across, of love of the stranger and welcome for the migrant, of good leadership and of the pursuit of the Common Good for the benefit especially of our children, of the beauty of being creative and the happiness of building a new country rather than merely exploiting the old.

We must seek dialogue with the leaders in all areas of life: government, industry, labour, education, science, culture, art and encourage them to accept ownership of the country and responsibility for the nation, the wider region and even the continent. Unless they do, do not be surprised if new imperialists drive our children out of their homeland.
Work not a Curse, but a Blessing

It is in the family that children learn the value of work and get used to working together which is crucial for the well-being of the nation. “This is the first school of life where children are formed in intrinsic values of sharing work, respecting others, learning tolerance, learning how to treat others well, knowing that each person must play his or her part if things are to work well. We learn that we are part and parcel, that we belong, that we are needed.” 27 People who feel anonymous, unimportant, and disconnected will not have the self-confidence to progress in their work.

In Genesis 3: 17 – 19 God tells Adam that he will have to toil in the sweat of his face: work appears to be a punishment. – In the New Testament work, including manual work, has a positive role. Working people appear in Jesus’ parables. ‘The worker deserves his wages’. Paul earns his keep with his work as a tentmaker. He appeals to the early Christians “to respect those who labour among you,… esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess 5: 12-13). “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thess 3: 10). The history of the Church shows the esteem for work and workers, e.g the Benedictine rule “Ora et Labora” / “Pray and Work” which laid the groundwork for the building of Europe.

If Africa wants to earn the respect of the rest of the world the African people must becomeskilled and dedicated workers, creative, inventive and persevering. Unfortunately, too many parents advise their children to aim for a white-collar career, while what Africa needs are also skilled craftsmen, farmers, builders, artisans. African women have always been hard workers, while men were forced by their colonial masters into hard manual labour in mines and on farms. We now need workers proud of their workmanship and skills.

The Church as educator and promoter of human development can contribute to a positive attitude to creative and constructive work.
Culture of Work and Creativity

If Africa succeeds in developing a Culture of Work and Creativity so her children find employment or gainful self-employment she can hold her head high in the community of nations so many of which struggle with youth unemployment too. It would be a giant step towards stopping the exodus of African youth out of Africa. Hopefully many will see that the Promised Land is not in Europe or America, but in Africa herself .



The Gift of Entrepeneurship 28

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

As business people you are perhaps not used to ask the question WHY? Why do we need an economy? What purpose does it serve? These are philosophical questions. They are not as silly as they sound. There are several answers to these questions, and they make a practical difference.

a)     The economy produces what the people as a whole need.

b)    Or: it gives the worker an opportunity to earn for himself a living.  The farmer, engineer, technician earns for himself a living.  And he produces what the people at large need in their lives.

Most people only consider the first option: a job gives me a living; I am working for myself (and maybe my family).

But my work as a farmer, engineer, technician, craftsman does more than that: it produces for the country as a whole and its people.

A business leader or entrepreneur creates work opportunities. He/she takes the initiative in getting production of needed goods going.

What motivates him/her? The desired income for himself? Or the growth of the economy and increased production for the good of the country and its people?

The business leader in an ethical sense is not just looking after himself (and his/her family), but is responsible for the community, society, the country.

If someone starts a pharmaceutical company, his first concern may be the market. Will my product be bought? Can I make a profit?

But as responsible business leaders we ask also: will my product do any good? Will it contribute to the health of the people? Will it improve public health? Will the people who need it most have the money to buy it?

There is a difference between a completely self-centred business man whose main concern is his own income,  and a business leader who thinks first of the needs of the community: the need for workplaces, the need for food, shelter, health, education.

There is a basic Christian principle: whatever I have was given to me; even what I created or produced myself is a gift; the Creator enabled and empowered me to create and produce it  (e.g. I say “my child” to my son, but he is the Creator’s gift to me and my wife) ; any gift I receive I share with the community. Intelligence, talent, creativity, skills are not just used to create wealth for myself, but to enhance and improve the lives of all in the community.

Most people do not know this. They think what is mine is only for myself. “Private property” in this sense is selfish, and to keep things for myself is a sign of greed.

“Private property” is a good thing if it gives me space for freedom (a family home, for instance, or a farm used prodcuctively for the community; or a factory where fellow citizens are employed and produce for the country; you might even consider to make the workers co-owners).

Production

Large parts of our population seem to have a wrong concept of wealth creation.

They think creating wealth for themselves consists in laying their hands on wealth created by others. Getting a slice of the cake already baked (Economists call this “rent-seeking”). Maybe even the whole cake, because they do not seem to bother about sharing, within the clan and family perhaps, but not with the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. Most people, including our leaders, have no idea of the COMMON GOOD, a key concept of Catholic and Christian Social Teaching.

Therefore we need ENTREPENEURS. To be an entrepreneur is a special gift , not everyone has it. It is a man or woman of creativity, of ideas, of initiative, courageous and prepared to take risks, prepared to venture onto untrodden lands, to start something new, prepared to accept responsibility, at the same time being honest, reliable and accountable (a person starting a new venture must seek loans and be honest about repaying the loans – a rare quality in this country!).

What is the AIM AND OBJECTIVE OF ENTREPENEURSHIP?

 Just wealth creation, maximizing profit, in one word: making money?

A new company must be profitable. If you stay in the red figures you are not doing any good to anybody, neither yourself, nor your staff, nor the public at large.

But money making as such is not enough.

Christians must be MEN AND WOMEN FOR OTHERS, their concern cannot just be to make money for themselves, but they must have a wider horizon. They must think of the country as a whole.

Is my production beneficial to the people as a whole?  A woman may want to start a company to produce high-class cosmetics which only high-class women can afford. Should she not think first of what ordinary women need - simple skin creams, baby creams etc, at affordable prices ? 

A contractor may be very keen on building top-quality mansions , luxury flats , hotels, office blocks etc. But should builders  not ask themselves what the people of this country need most in the building sector? There is no doubt that we need above all housing for the low-income earners and lower middle class: that seems an impossible proposition for a businessman or –woman, choosing  as customers the financially weakest, working for people least able to pay. It would be an enormous challenge. Not easy. But if some progress could be made in the housing sector we would begin to do away with the greatest failure of market economies: the absence of decent housing for the lower income people.

As a result we have slums and sub-standard shelter for a large part of the population which causes much damage to married life, families and  communities. I am merely demonstrating what it means for a Christian, Catholic entrepreneur to be a MAN / WOMAN FOR OTHERS. Making money is not bad and any employment creation is a good thing. But is it enough? It seems we must be even more ambitious.

[Where in Scripture does it say that we must be MEN/WOMEN FOR OTHERS? Here just a few relevant passages, there are many more: the Good Samaritan Luke 10: 29 – 37; The Last Judgment Matthew 25: 31 – 46; Jesus the Servant Leader Mark 10: 45, John 13: Washing  the Feet of the Disciples;  1. Corinthians 13: 1 – 13; much of the Gospel of John, see the passages on Love;  the self-giving Jesus , carrying our burdens, carrying the cross, suffering and dying  even for his enemies; “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6: 2); see the life of the early Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles, 1 Corinthians etc: the sharing of goods, the charity and mutual support (Paul collecting charitable funds for the community in Jerusalem).  – “GOD is LOVE” (1 John). God is communion, community, sharing, mutual self-giving. Worshipping the Triune God only makes sense if  His Spirit of Love, reaching out to our brothers and sisters, becomes part of ourselves.]

An entrepreneur is not building a kingdom for himself. He must be a LEADER. In Christian understanding Leadership is a form of service. A leader must have a wider vision than others. He must have an  overview of the economy of the country and know its special needs. He does not only want to succeed himself, but he wants his country and the whole continent to succeed.

A leader is not a tyrant or dictator. A dictator does not listen to anyone, he only talks to himself. As a result he deteriorates intellectually, because he only keeps repeating his own ideas and refuses to listen to new ideas, he is never challenged intellectually, and  his brain decays. This is why freedom  of thought and expression is crucial for a developing, forward looking country. This is why a leader must work with a team. He must respect his workers as colleagues and have dialogue with them. Such a leader knows that his gifts must benefit his workers and co-workers, his fellow citizens and even his competitors and rivals!

RESPONSIBILITY FOR CREATION – CARE  FOR THE ENVIRNONMENT, MINDFUL OF ECOLOGY

A Christian, Catholic Entrepeur knows that he has responsibility for CREATION. He  makes use of creation and the production process has an impact on it. You  use firewood for curing tobacco. This leads to deforestation and the drying up of streams and rivers. Is that not too high a price for the good income from tobacco? A difficult ethical question: tobacco is a poison that leads to the early death of countless smokers.

We have failed to create employment. The unemployed are desperate people. They go anywhere and do anything to make a living. For instance by gold panning, an old trade going back hundreds of years. Unfortunately gold panning destroys the environment, in other words Nature, God’s creation. Government has banned gold panning, the police chase those unfortunate men and women and arrest them. But if Government were sincere about protecting the environment, they would kickstart the economy and create jobs. Then the goldpanner problem would go away or at least become manageable. Just forbidding people to dig for gold without giving them an alternative is no good. Just as demolishing illegal housing  does not do any good unless you provide alternative accomodation.

The other day I met a friend who lives in Umwinsidale. He complained about his new neighbours who have cut down lots of trees where there were forests and streams (Helensvale and beyond) to build their luxury mansions. The streams are drying up.

People in this country tend to dismiss  care for the environment, saying , ‘Being concerned about the ecology is a luxury we cannot afford. It is merely a hobby of westerners’. Well, once we have managed to extend the Kalahari up to Nyanga we may begin to think differently.

Abuse of the environment destroys our own life, it destroys good relationships to our neighbours, and, cut off from God’s creation, we are cut off from the Creator.

Air pollution deprives us of the breath of life, makes the family and the community sick, and deprives us of the presence of God: people of wealth, greed, excessive consumption  have no “hunger and thirst” for God.

Take excessive smoking : it destroys the life of the smoker, affects his family and community and  the addiction  disturbs his relationship to the Creator.

EVERY PERSON IS PRECIOUS

Workers are more than mere means towards an end, mere tools for profit maximisation

A business enterprise needs three things: land, capital and labour. The most important is labour. Other  than land and capital, labour is not a “thing”, an “object” I can use as a I like. Labour is people, persons, human beings , children of God, who as such possess dignity, freedom, responsibility, rights and duties.

You cannot just factor them into your calculations as things that have such and such a monetary value. That would mean turning human persons into things and objects, depriving them of their human dignity as persons.

A person can never be used as a mere means towards an end, a mere tool or instrument for a higher purpose. This would demean the person and degrade him or her, reduce him/her to the level of a mere thing, “objectify” him or her (many men do that with their wives !!. For example, a husband saying as ‘master of the house’ to his wife, “You must obey me, I have paid ‘lobola’ for you, plenty of it,  I am the owner around here…..” )

Even if you as employer pay salaries and wages you do not “own” your workers. You do not “buy” them. Such workers would have to regard themselves as “wage slaves” as indeed many workers do.

The other day I heard a “boss” say, “We do not have staff meetings here. I know what you have to do. You do not tell me. This is not a democracy.” This was a very hurtful  thing to say. Because what he meant , in plain language, was, “I use you as I like. You are  tools in my hands. I do all the thinking around here that needs to be done. Your thinking, your thoughts do not interest me.” That  CEO (Chief Executive Officer) does not recognize the full humanity of his co-workers. He dehumanizes his staff members. If they could afford it, they could and should give notice and run away from such dehumanizing conditions.

Every worker has brains, intelligence, a sense of responsibility, and if these are not yet sufficiently developed they ought  to be. It is a poor employer who is happy that his workers are dull, subservient, servile.  

A Christian employer should give thanks to the Lord every day for the gifts that he discovers in his co-workers and should be happy to develop them: imagination, inventiveness, creativity, initiative. We worship and honour our Creator by making the best possible use of his creatures and their abilities. An entrepreneur who is a true leader wishes to create a good working atmosphere where workers feel respected and appreciated, not intimidated and  clobbered into submission. And remember : if you humiliate  your workers, your diminish your own humanity as well. If a policeman beats a person to pulp, he does not just fail to show respect for the victim of his rage, he also humiliates himself: no genuine human person behaves like a wild animal. [Example : most wife-beaters suffer from inferiority complexes and despise themselves; a man who was abused as a child makes up for it by abusing his family, which is a vicious circle.]

Marxism claimed that the relationship between worker and owner/manager by historical necessity must be one of antagonism and contradiction. That is what they called the class struggle.

The historical task of a Christian entrepreneur (and indeed a Christian worker, employee) is to prove that the “class struggle” is not a necessity,  and  can be  done away with, by people who respect and trust each other, and share responsibility with each other, though they may be of different rank; but they  still retain faith in their common heritage as children of the same  Father, and brothers and sisters of the same Son and Lord, guided by the same Spirit.

 

GOOD GOVERNANCE – BAD GOVERNANCE

Bad Governance – Failed States

The Church in Africa observes with great concern that many African countries are governed badly, that leadership is poor, constitutions are neglected, there is no rule of law, leaders refuse to step down, try even to bend constitutions for their own convenience. As a result, national assets are abused, wasted and stolen through corruption. Economic policies fail to support growth, industrialization, farming and food production, employment, an increase in tax for use in social development (health, education, infrastructures). Her leaders, the bishops, are therefore determined to denounce ‘bad governance’ and make the Church a voice for good governance, based on respect for human dignity, leadership at the service of the people, social justice, and solidarity.



Incompatible: Personality Cult and Constitutional State

Often the governance of a country is tied to one particular individual who is considered the liberator and saviour of the nation, therefore indispensable and irreplaceable : we have here the “Life President” syndrome. It often expresses itself in a “personality cult”. The respect paid to the “leader” resembles religious worship or a cult. This shows in the ( pseudo-religious) language.

Example: Zimbabwean leaders. Leader of the opposition Morgan Tsvangirai was said to have been “appointed and anointed by God” by one of his strongest supporters, Nelson Chamisa (NewsDay, 8 March 2014). Mugabe was addressed as “messenger sent by God”. He has been likened to Jesus Christ and called a “central pillar of God’s plan for Africa” by a military leader.

This kind of hero worship has a long history. Again and again the Zimbabwean leader has been given divine attributes so as to make him unassailable and beyond criticism: who could possibly call the leadership of a demi-god into question? (Robert Mugabe Messenger of God, Bulawayo 24 News, Zimsituation , 18 March 2014).

Such pseudo-religious political cults are not just found in Africa. North Korea (which has had a long and influential presence in Zimbabwe) , Iran and other Asian and Latin American countries have or had similar cult figures as leaders.

Often their countries are characterized by poverty and corruption. Mao tse Tung and the cult surrounding his person had to be removed before China could launch its new economic policy, achieve rapid industrial growth and rise to the status of a new superpower.

Fascist dictators like Hitler also knew how to inculcate in the masses blind obedience and hero worship , up to the point of complete mass hysteria and paranoia.

Singing the praises of the leader of course has a long cultural history in Africa and elsewhere. Praise Poetry is a category of oral literature.29

People sing the praises of the great leader , his virtues, profound wisdom, invincible strength, because they are insecure, fearful, frightened and seek reassurance. If the leader is sent by God who can possibly defeat him and us who are one with him? There is no limit to his power, no point in time when he has to step down, he owns the country and the people depend on his benevolence. Anyone not following the great leader has disqualified himself and does not belong to the nation. Anyone opposing him must be evil because only evil persons are opposed to God and those “appointed and anointed by God”. And we hate evil and destroy evil people.

This readiness for violence is the reverse side of hero worship and personality cults.

Constitutional Government, on the face of it, is entirely secular. The divinity plays no part in it, ‘Satan’ or the evil one are never mentioned.

The people as a collective unit own the country and as a nation hold all power to govern. The people create the State and give it its Constitution, i.e. a definite set of rules governing the State which acts on behalf of the people.

The State and its Constitution are the seat of power, not an individual person or even group of persons. The people as owners of the country delegate their power through elections to legislators and the executive governing the country in their place.

The State and its Constitution are like a house that endures while the inhabitants come and go (= members of parliament and government). The Constitutional State therefore is greater than those who happen to administer it for a given period of time, i.e. the president, prime minister, ministers, members of parliament etc. Their power is defined in the Constitution and is limited. The separation of powers makes sure of that. Members of government ideally see themselves as servants - which is why they are called Ministers (Latin for “servant”). They are not just seeking their own fortune and personal enrichment and glory. They take an oath promising to seek what benefits the people as a whole (the Common Good).

A Constitution exists only in written form and as such it is an abstract entity. It is not a person, though created by persons. It is an instrument, a means towards an end, not an end in itself.

For a constitution to be developed and become effective, a certain cultural development is required, e.g. literacy. It also requires a certain moral development, e.g. desisting from violence and the determination to create a peaceful community/society. The rule of law can be established only if people accept its authority, and democracy is, among other things, a way of settling conflicts and rivalry for power by peaceful means, e.g. the ballot.

A regime based on the personal power of one individual or a clique supported by hero worship and a personality cult, on the one hand, and a Constitutional State, on the other, are two fundamentally different things. They are not compatible, even though we find that democratically elected leaders may behave like all-powerful autocrats who do not recognize any limits to their power and consider themselves owners of the State. That is the root cause of bad government in Africa (and elsewhere).

Often the Constitution defining the State is a foreign import and not yet fully accepted by, and absorbed into, the actual political thinking and acting of the people. Their cultural and moral development has not yet caught up with what a Constitutional State represents. The Constitution is there on paper, and on paper only. But it has not yet become a rule governing the political life of a given people and their country.



Christian roots of Constitutional State?

It seems a paradox that a secular state which does not refer explicitly to religious thought should be more Christian than a one-man-regime that uses religious language to justify itself. But it is pseudo-religious language and assumes the form of a cult, that is false religion, worshipping something as divine that is not divine at all, namely power and wealth.

Even if you do not agree that the Constitutional State has Christian roots, at least it is more compatible with Christianity than the one-man-regime and its hero worship.

That the people are the owners and have responsibility for the State is more in line with Christian thinking: human dignity demands that a person is co-responsible for the community and society in which he lives. Citizens are owners with responsibility, they have rights and duties: this is more in line with the Christian concept of a person who is morally responsible for his own life and for that of his family.

People should never be merely passive objects of unlimited power in which they have no share. People should be free to exercise responsibility at their own level rather than allow all power to be concentrated in the hands of only one person or a small clique at the top (subsidiarity).

Power is not an end in itself, but is an instrument serving the Common Good (solidarity) , benefitting all people. The Constitution defines the rights and duties of the leaders and the limits of their authority. Leaders serve the people, not the people the leader. This understanding of leadership is close to Jesus’ “servant leadership”.



Moving towards the Constitutional State

In promoting Good Governance through a Constitutional State, it is not enough for the Church merely to denounce publicly “bad governance”, corruption, violence, election fraud, human rights violations and oppression.

The Church must engage in an educational process on all levels of society. The voice of the Church (bishops, priests, catechists, teachers of religion, church media etc) must explain the difference between the one-man-regime and its hero worship, on the one hand, and the Constitutional State on the other; why the former is inadequate, and what the preconditions for the latter are. She must commit herself publicly to the Constitutional State and explain why she makes this option, exposing the verbal support for the Constitutional State by many leaders as fraud and a great lie when in fact they are running a one-man-regime of unlimited power.

Autocratic one-man regimes have in fact waging a propaganda war against the Church and seem to be winning. The average Catholic has been told so many times that the Church “must not meddle in politics” that they now believe it as if it were church teaching. Even some priests and spokespersons for the Church believe it and teach it. Pope Francis has only recently said that it is a Christian duty to be involved in public affairs and become politically active.30

But most Catholics shun Justice and Peace work because they call it “politics”, and “politics” is considered to be outside the realm of the Church. They may even repeat the idiotic slogan “Leave politics to the politicians”. As a matter of fact, given the enormous damage political leaders have done to Africa, politicians are the last people we should trust with political power.

A Spirituality of Good Leadership

The prophets of the Old Testament constantly had to fight against idolatry: worshipping the false gods of power and wealth. The people of Israel again and again abandoned Yahwe and turned to fertility cults (The Golden Calf of Mount Sinai). Yahwe was the merciful God of the poor who liberated the people out of the “house of slavery” in Egypt; he did not bless the wealthy.

Jesus taught and lived a “servant leadership”. This is the crucial point in our promotion of “good governance”. Jesus’ humility as obedient Son of the Father shows us the way we have to walk as leaders, in the local church community, in society at large and in politics. We first have to be converted ourselves to this “servant leadership” and live it in our families and communities, in Church and civic community, before we can convincingly proclaim it in the political realm.

The task of promoting “good governance” is so vast that without prayer, meditation and guidance by the Spirit of Jesus we will not achieve anything. We will just become another noisy political faction which will not make any difference.



Teaching Catholic Social Doctrine

Catholic Social Doctrine must be given a definite place in the syllabi of seminaries and houses of formation, in combination with existing subjects like Scripture, Systematic Theology (the Kingdom of God and the earthly “kingdoms” and powers), Pastoral Theology (concern for justice in the Christian community), Moral Theology and Ethics (personal sin and structural sin, relationship between men and women, ownership and the distribution of goods), Canon Law (justice within the Church), Church History (historical questions of social justice, e.g. slavery, position of women in the course of history, relationship between Church and State through the ages).

Future priests must be prepared for their role in public affairs and be trained to have dialogue with political leaders, business leaders, to judge matters of social justice correctly and educate their people about justice issues so they can become activists.

Ecumenical Cooperation

The task is so vast , it needs to be tackled by Christians of different backgrounds together, not forgetting cooperation with people of other faiths and none (Traditionalists, Muslim, Hindu, secularists). Wisdom concerning good governance is found in many traditions. The relationship between Church and State is seen differently by various churches; through dialogue we should achieve a common view of state power.



Conclusion

Good Governance is about translating the justice, love and compassion of our God revealed in Jesus Christ into strong political structures. The revolutionary one-man-regime has no permanent structures; the “big man” once deposed or dead leaves no lasting legacy.

Whereas our project of making “good governance” possible must create a structural framework which will lay the foundation for a strong Constitutional State both strong and elastic, growing and changing and yet retaining its basic features: respect for the dignity of the human person, solidarity, the pursuit of the common good , the rule of law and the separation of powers. The Constitutional State will never allow state authority to be personalized in a leader of limitless power, a hero to be worshipped in a cult.

As people of faith we must unmask the false gods and idols of absolute power, excessive accumulation of wealth and of sexual abuse. Faith in the one, true God liberates us from slavish hero worship and cults that honour mere mortals as divine.

We will have good governance if we have leaders who ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with their God’ (Micah 6 : 8). - oWe

ADORATION AND SERVICE”



By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

We are God’s creatures. We did not create ourselves. We were created, or to be precise, we are being created all the time. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28).To acknowledge this in thankfulness is the beginning of our relationship which never ends. Thus we live in utter wonder at His Being and our partaking in it. This is our breathing space.

God calls us into being. Created for God, we need to respond. If we fail to do so there will be much emptiness, a vacuum which we may be too busy to notice, but once our busy-ness is over it will re-emerge painfully.

We are meant to make an “exodus” from ourselves, to go out of ourselves, to leave ourselves behind and reach out to the Source of all Being.

We become ourselves by giving ourselves away. There is only One who is really worthy that He receive us, that we allow ourselves to fall into His hands, that is the one Creator and Lord.

We do so in “adoration and service”, in prayer and in doing His will, in thanksgiving and in serving, “ora et labora/pray and toil”.

“Adoration is always an initiative of God. It is Christ who has called you to follow him … and this means to continually engage in an ‘exodus’ from yourselves to centre your existence on Christ and on his Gospel, on the will of God, divesting yourselves of your plans, to be able to say with Saint Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). This ‘exodus’ leads us to a path of adoration of the Lord and of service to Him in our brothers and sisters.” (Pope Francis, addressing women religious superiors in Rome recently).

Adoration is not just an activity, to be switched on and off . It becomes an attitude which is always there. Jesus spoke about our ”need to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18: 1, see also 1. Thess. 5 : 17, Eph. 6; 18).

There is a long tradition in the Eastern Church going back to the early monks in the desert who prayed in the rhythm of their bodies , as regular as breathing. An anonymous Russian pilgrim of the 19th century made their way of “praying continuously” known even in the West through his autobiographical work “The Way of a Pilgrim” (Image Books, Doubleday, New York, 1978). There he describes how he learned and practiced the “Jesus-Prayer” while walking the length and the breadth of Russia as a lifelong pilgrim: “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (there are also shorter versions of this prayer; indeed some practitioners have been praying it by simply repeating continuously the name of Jesus).

Some people misunderstand this as a mere technique, like a mantra. That would be an outright self-manipulation. We are not interested in that. “There was no tone of magic. … they cried out his name as Lord. But they also realized …that they were in need of his healing mercy because of their own sinfulness” (Lk. 18: 38; Lk. 18 : 13; cf “Kyrie eleison” of the liturgy).

One can admit that this form of prayer has its psychosomatic side to it. Praying by repeating continuously a verse of Scripture, or a brief exclamation, is also known in the Western Church. The Rosary is such a way of praying. St Ignatius of Loyola advises us in his “Spiritual Exercises” that we should pray the Our Father and other common prayers of the Church reciting them slowly and continuously, letting the words speak to us (The Spiritual Exercises, no. 258). One could add words from Scripture, saying them slowly over and over again, listening to them and “tasting” their sweetness.

Prayer forms like this help us overcome distractions and keep us focused on the Lord, while preventing us from slipping into a self-centred mode. Following the rhythm of our breathing may be helpful, but spiritual guides with long experience of this way of praying warn against being overmuch concerned with technique.

The Eastern Christians see no value in the “Jesus-Prayer” unless it is an expression of the Holy Spirit praying in us. “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8: 26). It is the Spirit of Jesus that prays in us. We join Jesus in his praying to the Father. The Spirit is this relationship of infinite love between Son and Father. Prayer and Adoration (but also in a different way Service and Work, humbly doing the will of God) is partaking in the life of the Triune God.

“God is Love”. This Love is the Father giving Himself to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Spirit is this self-giving Love. Receiving the Holy Spirit means joining in this mutual self-giving. We are loved with the love the Father has for the Son, so we respond by joining the Son in giving Himself to the Father. You cannot love God without “losing” yourself, and yet you gain all.

In reciting the “Jesus-Prayer” quietly in your heart , without actually pronouncing the words, you make this self-giving and “losing” yourself your permanent attitude, which in turn gets you ready to do the work of the Lord and His will in serving Him and his people. Adoration liberates you for service. “To the degree that we experience the tremendous love of God in Jesus Christ, we can let this love pour out to every man and woman, brother and sister” (George Malone SJ, Prayer of the Heart, Ave Maria Press, Indiana, 1981, p. 141).

But, you may ask, in the meantime do I have to stop work, and preoccupation with service, so as to be able to say the “Jesus-Prayer”? Should I be Mary rather than Martha ? (Lk. 10: 38 – 42)

Not at all. You are habitually reaching out to the Lord in your heart, even when you are busy like Martha. The words merely give expression to this, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. There are in fact many empty moments in the course of your waking hours when you can call on Jesus with these words, e.g. when you wait for the bus, or drive, or walk, do routine work with your hands, cooking, sweeping the floor, or resting or doing sports.

This prayer prays itself. The Pilgrim calls it a “self-activating” prayer. Once you are in the habit you need not make a conscious effort. Your heart says the prayer when there is a chance. “The prayer exists and acts on its own because the Spirit of God prays in him or her” (Malone, 136).

We meet Jesus sacramentally in the Eucharist. The “Jesus-Prayer” enables us to walk in the presence of the Lord for the rest of the day.

This prayer must not be misunderstood as a way of taking possession of the Lord, of “having” Him. Through this prayer we walk with the Lord as pilgrims who do not know where He will lead them.

[1212 words]

NO LONGER “STUNTED”, BUT LIBERATED BY LOVE

A reply to “Atheist”

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

“Atheist” (letter to S Cross, 30 May 2013) has raised, at least indirectly, a very challenging question: how do you become a fully grown person? How do you realize your potential and become fully human?

St Paul wants us “to come to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph. 4: 13). What is maturity? Or, in terms of the Gospel, “the full stature of Christ”?

The opposite would be “stunted growth”, like that of a spiritual dwarf, a crippled, disfigured human being, retarded in his personal development.

Having tried it and found it was not for him, “atheist” is convinced that celibacy is “stunting” the growth of people. In other words, not being “sexually active” is deforming people and stopping them from fully developing their humanity.

That is, of course, a very common view these days. Every tabloid paper and most talk shows are selling sex as the most vital elixir of life.

No doubt, celibacy, like marriage, can go wrong. Pope Francis recently had something to say on this when addressing a group of women religious superiors who had come to meet him. He mentioned “chastity as a precious charism, which widens the freedom of the gift to God and to others, with the tenderness, the mercy, the closeness of Christ….in the Church. The consecrated woman …must be a mother. But, please, a ‘fecund’ chastity, a chastity that generates spiritual children and not a ‘spinster!’ …..Be mothers, as the figure of Mother Mary and of the Mother Church. “

A mother has found fulfillment as a woman. She lives for her family. She is a person-for-others, and as such she realizes her very self.

We realize ourselves, and our potential, by being for others, living for others. That is different from the current western ideal of “self-realization” , meaning “doing one’s own thing”.

Jesus put it paradoxically, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8; 35). Which was no more than the actual pattern of his life. In life and in death he was the perfect man-for-others. As such he was simply the perfect man.

What do we live for? The answer is simple : Love. Which is exemplified and realized once and for all in Jesus’ self-giving.

He did not live for one woman, for one beloved wife, he was celibate, but he lived to do the will of the Father and to live for his brothers and sisters, members of his Bride the Church.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, … Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 44 – 45, 48). “God is love”, and perfect love makes us perfect humans.

Love, not a lived out sexuality, makes us fully human, is our full maturity and fulfilled humanity. Love for the tabloid readers is sex. Not quite. There is loveless, exploitative sex.

Love, whether or not it finds sexual expression, is life-giving. There was a little baby-boy dumped on the streets of a big city. Police picked him up and took him to a hospital. The nurses fed the baby, bathed and clothed him dutifully. They came and went, on and off-duty. The baby remained very tiny and did not grow. Then a children’s village took him in. One of the “housemothers” accepted the little one as her own. He responded to her love, and after a few months he was a heavy, healthy, happy little boy. Love gives life and growth.

Sexual intimacy should be an expression of the love of man and woman for each other ; their mutual self-giving as husband and wife should be fruitful in giving life and love to children. But love is not confined to this intimate union, though marriage will be forever the most obvious symbol of love (which is why Scripture compares God and His people, Christ and the Church with a loving couple).

In that same address to women religious Pope Francis said also, “ Christ […] has called you to follow him … and this means to continually engage in an ‘exodus’ from yourselves to centre your existence on Christ and on his Gospel, on the will of God, divesting yourselves of your plans, to be able to say with Saint Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). This ‘exodus’ leads us to a path of adoration of the Lord and of service to Him in our brothers and sisters.”

A loving person is not centred on him- or herself, but on the beloved. A loving person is forever engaged in an ‘exodus’, in going out of himself or herself, is habitually a ‘person in relationship’, a person reaching out in love to the loved ones, forgetting self. We need a lifetime to complete this ‘exodus’, this leaving ourselves behind and becoming ‘people for others’, in perfect love with their Father, in conformity with the Son and driven by the Holy Spirit.

It’s a pity that “atheist” left the seminary under the impression that he had escaped from a “stunted” life. Celibacy just was not meant for him. There are countless ways to God. If one door is closed that does not mean that the door to God is closed altogether.

There are the spinsters and bachelors among celibates who still need to be freed from Egypt and its’ fleshpots’, undertake their ‘exodus’ and reach the ‘promised land’ of God’s love.

But most, I dare say, who have heard the Lord’s call to a life of consecrated chastity want to love the people to whom they are sent as much, or even more so if that is possible, as their parents loved them, or rather as the Lord loves them which is without limit.

Nothing can “stunt” or cripple us as long as we walk with Christ. His love is the fullness of life (John 10: 10).



Fr Oskar Wermter SJ assists the Bishops of Southern Africa, IMBISA, in theological and pastoral matters, based in Harare/Zimbabwe.

FAITH NEEDS REASON

By Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Faith and reason do not contradict each other, religion and rationality are not irreconcilable. It is not irrational for God’s creatures to want to enter into a relationship with their creator. It is not unreasonable for human beings who are gifted with a mind and intellect, with understanding and language to express themselves to reach out to God as the origin of all being, who is greater than the universe and yet contained in the smallest atom.

Human beings do not accept limits and so they try and grasp even a qualitatively totally different entity, called the Divine, or, recognizing His personal nature, God.

While the intellectual tools reason gives us are adequate in reaching out to the largest objects ( in outer space, for instance) as well as to the tiniest (the nuclear and subatomic world), the Divine is constitutionally and essentially greater than anything we can rationally perceive. St Augustine (died 430 in Hippo in today’s Tunis) , one of the greatest minds in Christian history, put it paradoxically : “Si comprehendis, non est Deus – If you can grasp it, it is not God”.

But this is not irrational. This is to be expected, that God who is mystery exceeds our intellectual capabilities. Our inadequacy does not mean he does not exist. Using imagery, we can say: we can touch the seams of his garments, but we cannot embrace him. We can know of him, his outer frame as it were , but we cannot penetrate his very depth.

This is not all that strange: even lifelong lovers, though they know much about each other, do they not remain mystery to each other? What true lovers will say that they have no longer any surprises for each other?

This is all the more true of God. A religious bestseller of recent years was entitled, “The God of Surprises”. Which is why true worshippers who really love God and do not just desire his earthly favours, are never bored by God. There is no greater adventure than probing the unfathomable depth of God, and yet be defeated by it.

Religion is not so much about knowing God as an abstract object of science as about loving God and being in relationship with Him. The worshipper is not a conqueror who gains control over God. It is exactly the opposite: God reaches out to us and invites us to totally surrender to him. The love relationship has its origin in God, not in us. We do not call God, he calls us. We respond to him in prayer and in action doing his will.

God is Love, and if we love our neighbour, wife, children, friends and even enemies, we respond to the love of God. God is forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity, labouring for our brothers and sisters out of love without counting the costs. Where we find such loving action there God is present.

Is this a scientific proof of his existence? No. But a scientific proof of God’s existence is out of the question. See Augustine of Hippo, the great North African bishop and teacher of the faith. But it is not unreasonable to have faith in God and to respond to him in love. This love begets more love. A life in this love is livable. This does not amount to a strict proof or laboratory test evidence. But it makes sense. Faith and reason are not enemies and rivals. They are sisters going hand in hand.

Religion in this day and age is often accused of being the mother of all violence and the enemy of enlightenment, science and progress. But there is no fundamental contradiction between religion and science, between faith and truth. Even the reason agnostics call upon in defence of their non-belief is a gift of the Creator. God is truth, and wherever truth is found God is at work.

It cannot be denied that bloody wars have been fought over religion, and that tensions between religious communities are still causing violence (Dailynews, 21 December). Faith communities can turn sectarian and aggressive which is a betrayal of God who is universal. Intolerance and power-seeking cause wars which is sinful and a distortion of true religion. There are no “holy wars”. Jesus refused to be defended by the sword (Mt 26: 52) and he taught us to love even our enemies (Mt 5: 44).

Religion is often abused. It is abused by the powerful to buttress their illegitimate positions of authority. They claim to have been appointed by God and their bootlicking followers sing their praises as if they were divine beings.

The separation of Church and State, between religion and secular power is crucial for freedom and democracy. God has given us his laws and his wisdom. These we have to make use of, and we will live in dignity, protected by justice. But if rogues and criminals control religion and claim divine rights , we go back to the slavery of Egypt and the oppression by absolute rulers.

There is true and false religion. God reveals himself. He is not discovered by human minds. But there are self-styled “prophets” who invent their own religion, maybe borrowing from the Bible what suits them. The result is indeed “madness” (Dailynews, 19 December). People who seek, not God, but their own advantage, prosperity and special favours, are gullible and are easily misled by seekers of fame and glory. This not what the “Son of Man” promised us. He came to be a servant and make us loving, self-giving servants of one another (Mt 10: 45, John 13:14).

Religion gone wrong needs critical reasoning powers to reconnect it with its pure origin.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE OF ARTICLE

WHERE PUBLISHED/ TITLE PUBLISHED UNDER

DATE OF PUBLICATION

Poverty Will Save The Church

NewsDay - Jesus was not a fundraiser

11/04/2014

When Victims Become Perpetrators

NewsDay – When victims become perpetrators

16/01/2015

What Does That Mean, ‘’Compliments Of The Season’’

NewsDay – What does that mean, ‘’compliments of the season’’

31/12/2014

Church and State – ‘Independent And Autonomous’

NewsDay - Church and State – ‘Independent And Autonomous’

14/10/2014

The Tragic consequences of ‘ healing prayer only’

NewsDay – “The tragic consequences of healing prayer only”

09/07/2014

If The Law Process Useless Is Throw It Away.

NewsDay – If the law process is useless throw it away

01/10/2014

Why Should We Give The State The Power To Kill?

NewsDay - Why Should We Give The State The Power To Kill?

15/09/2014

The Miracle of Hard Work

NewsDay – The Miracle of Hard Work.

25/08/2014

Better Citizens Make For Better Leaders

NewsDay - Better Citizens Make For Better Leaders

30/07/2014

Distressed People Caught In The Middle

Newsday - Distressed People Caught In The Middle

07/06/2014

Truth and Power

NewsDay – Too Many Lies Undermine The Truth

24/08/2013

Blind Leaders Afraid Of Those Who See

NewsDay - Blind Leaders Afraid Of Those Who See

09/04/2014

Failed Politics and False Religion

News Day - Failed Politics and False Religion

12/03/2014

Schooling – Our Continued Struggle For Liberation

NewsDay

May 2014

House On Fire Needs All Hands

NewsDay

October 2014

Striving For Equality And The Common Good

NewsDay - Striving For Equality And The Common Good

09/11/2013

Productive Work, Not Just ‘’Making Money’’, Is What We Want

NewsDay

12/10/2013

Let’s Be Good Samaritans

NewsDay - Let’s Be Good Samaritans

28/09/2013

Needed: Leaders With Conscience

NewsDay

07/09/2013

State and religion – competing centres of power

NewsDay - State and religion – competing centres of power

11/01/2014

Satanism – Beware Of False Religion

Satanism – Beware Of False Religion

07/12/2013

The Independence that is still to come.

NewsDay – The Independence that is still to come.

18/04/2013

“If the law proves useless, throw it away”

NewsDay -

01/10/2014

Economy needs to be guided by conscience

NewsDay – Economy needs to be guided by conscience

19/2/2014

My Memory, A Cemetery

News Day – My Memory, A Cemetery

17/02/2015

Constitution Guaranteeing Shelter To The Homeless

The Zimbabwean – Regime Change is a basic democratic procedure

26/06/2014

State Anarchy: Can The Church Do Better?

The Zimbabwean - State Anarchy: Can The Church Do Better?

20/02/2014

Migration

Unpublished – Draft was supposed to be presented at St Joseph’s Theological Institute but not done.

April 2014

The Gift of Entrepeneurship

Unpublished - Presented

07/11/2015

Good Governance – Bad Governance

Published in this volume for the first time.




Adoration and Service

The Southern Cross – A Direct Line of Prayer

17- 23 July 2013

No Longer ‘’Stunted’’, But Liberated By Love

The Southern Cross – Love, sex, celibacy and faith

25 June – 1 July 2014

Faith Needs Reason

Published in this volume for the first time.






1 Oskar Wermter SJ, Land – God’s Gift to All – Zimbabwe’s Violent Struggle over Land Ownership, from : Concilium : Land Conflicts – Land Utopias, 2007/2, p.19.

2 Eddie Cross, The Future of White Africans, Zimbabwesituation, 5 March 2014.

3 Bishop Kevin Dowling CSSR, Migration and Caritas in Veritate, in: A Story Worth Telling, In Honour of Card Napier, Stuart Bate OMI and Anthony Egan SJ, SACBC, 2013, p. 161.

4 Mokgoba , A View From the Other Side, 2010.

5 Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Letter to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, 19 June 2012

6 SW Radio Africa, quoted in : Zimbabwesituation, 7 March 2014

7 “Fleeing fighting in Mozambique to uncertain future in Malaw”i, NewsDay, Harare, March 7, 2014, p. 10

8 NoViolet Mkha, Shamisos, short story in: Writing Free, Weaver Press, edited by Irene Staunton, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2011, p. 85. – In another story in the same volume, Eyes On, by Fungisayi Sasa, which is about a well educated migrant in the UK, a mother warns “not to bring me a white muroora “(daughter-in-law). – See also NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Weaver Press, Harare, 2013, a novel about streed kids deprived of shelter by destruction of houses, and orphaned by AIDS. Darling, the lead character, finds refuge in the US.

9 Dr Katrine Camilleri , JRS, The Experience of Forcibly Displaced Persons, in : People on the Move, Pont Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, July – Dec 2013, p. 174.

10 Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, 2012

11 Recent private communication

12 ZCBC, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, 2012

13 Pope Francis, World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2014

14 Sarah Maguire, Putting adolescents and youth at the centre, in : Forced Migration Review, Refugees Studies Centre, University of Oxford, August 2012, p. 4)

15 “Politicized food”: in times of drought and famine only loyal party supporters receive food aid. Supporters of opposition parties are denied any food assistance.

16 ZCBC, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, June 2012, 2.2. Exclusion.

17 Rev Dr Barnabe d’Souza , The Increasing Phenomenon of Forcible Displacement, In : Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, People on the Move, Jan – May 2013, p.44.

18 ZCBC, Pastoral Letter do Diaspora, June 2012, 2.3 Embrace.

19 Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2014

20 On a personal note: the author of this paper is a migrant himself. Born in the extreme east of Germany, the war displaced him and he grew up as an IDP (internally displaced person) in the western half of Germany; as a religious he opted for work in the young Church of Africa , thus becoming a missionary migrant.

21 NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Weaver Press, 2013, p. 286

22 Pope Francis, Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014

23 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation , 24 November 2013.

24 SECAM Pastoral Letter, Governance, Common Good and Democratic Transitions, February 2013

25 Helder Camera, in : “Money must serve not rule!” by Fr Anthony Egan SJ, Worldwide, Febr – March 2014,

26 Bert Brecht, a Marxist poet and dramatist, used to say this in line with his ideology (Dialectical Materialism). Christians who believe that God became a human being like us, in one concrete person, at one specific point in time and space, should have no problem with this ‘concrete’ concept of truth.

27 Abp Stephen Brislin, 9th Plenary Assembly of IMBISA, Pretoria, December 2010. – See also Dr Ranga Zinyemba, Good Work Ethics in the Post-Colonial Era, Minutes of the same 9th Plenary , IMBISA.

28 Paper presented under the title of “The Role of Spirituality in Business Vocation of the Catholic Church” to the Association of Catholic Entrepeneurs, 7 November 2015, Harare.

29 This does not necessarily have to be sinister. It may just be an appreciation of the virtues of justice and equity found in a leader and express the values held by his people. But it can be misused if applied to a leader not deserving such praise.

30 There is a grain of truth here. The leaders of the Church when speaking for the Church will avoid being party-politically partisan. Individual lay Catholics may of course take part in the political process through party membership. The Church as a whole though will teach and preach on principles of social justice that apply universally and address herself to all parties and political leaders of whatever party. Like the Good Samaritans the Church must come to the aid of all who suffer under political oppression. There is no excuse for inactivity.



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