Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Joint Letter from the World Council of Churches and the World Student Christian Federation on Zimbabwe

We welcome the statement of 23 June by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the preliminary action taken by the UN Security Council on Zimbabwe; we also welcome the statement of 23 June by the Chair of SADC, H.E. Levy Mwanawasa.

It is now with profound concern that we call on you to increase your efforts to address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. As church leaders representing more than 550 million Christians around the world, including members of many churches in Zimbabwe, we request that you direct urgent attention to the humanitarian needs of the people of Zimbabwe, their freedom to exercise religion, the destabilization of the political situation and the need to end human rights abuses .

Reports from those in and outside Zimbabwe persuade us that international intervention is now needed to distribute much-needed food aid. The government’s decision to end food distribution by international agencies has led only to political isolation and increased suffering. Food and medicine are in particular demand, with the imminent threat of starvation in some areas. Education has also been disrupted, with some schools now housing government troops.

We have learned from our Zimbabwean brothers and sisters that some churches have been kept from offering worship while other church services have been violently dispersed. This situation, which is underreported in the media, is unacceptable and must receive urgent attention from the world community.

The much more publicized disintegration of the political situation can no longer be overlooked by the world.

We are concerned that Zimbabweans have been denied the right to choose their own leader in a free and fair election. The sovereignty of the people has been violated and must be restored.

The party that has created this violent situation on the ground now seems poised to be awarded the presidency, and with it the power to appoint additional senators who will sway the balance of parliament. Such a manipulation of the election process can have no legitimacy in the eyes of Zimbabweans or of the world. This precedent must not be set as the norm.

Charges have been made that serious crimes are being committed. These allegations must be investigated; if found to be substantial, alleged perpetrators must stand trial. The current election cycle has been reduced to a shambles. If the perpetrators of violence are not brought to account, attempts at a political solution will be fundamentally undermined. There can be no impunity.

The international community must insist on a political solution to the question of leadership in Zimbabwe. This may involve a postponement of the election, giving the time for the establishment of control mechanisms based on internationally accepted standards that would guarantee the unhindered expression of will of the people of Zimbabwe through truly free and fair elections. It is essential that the international community reaffirm the integrity of democratic elections as the means by which Zimbabwean citizens choose their leaders.

National governments clearly have the primary and sovereign responsibility to provide for the safety and well-being of their people. However, when there is egregious failure to carry out that responsibility, whether by neglect, lack of capacity, or direct assaults on the population, the international community has the duty to assist peoples and states, and in extreme situations, to intervene in the internal affairs of a state in the interests and safety of the people. When the State can no longer provide protection to its own people, the principle of non-intervention (art. 2.7 of the UN Charter) yields to the responsibility of the international community to protect them. This is the responsibility to protect (R2P).

At one time, Zimbabwe stood as the breadbasket of Africa. Its strengthening economy and growing freedoms served as a beacon of hope to all Africans who pursued the promise of a new Africa. Today Zimbabwe represents only suffering and hardship.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve better, and we as church leaders pray that the deep faith and perseverance of a proud people will once again emerge and be put in the service of rebuilding this society that is so tragically ravaged by distrust, dissension and violence.

The biblical prophet Amos proclaimed the coming of a day when “justice” would “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Our prayer is for the speedy arrival of that day in Zimbabwe, and our hope is that the international community will accept this prophecy as a vision and a goal.

In peace,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches Rev. Michael Wallace
General Secretary
World Student Christian Federation



CC:
H.E. President Thabo Mbeki, Republic of South Africa
Rev. Dr Mvume Dandala, General Secretary, All Africa Conference of Churches
Mr Eddie Makue, Chair, FOCCISA

Letter by WCC to the United Nations Secretary General on the situation in Zimbabwe

HE President Thabo Mbeki
HE President Levy Mwanawasa
HE President Jakaya Kikwete

Geneva, 18 June 2008
Your Excellency,

I offer greetings on behalf of the constituency of the World Council of Churches (WCC). We in the World Council continue to be concerned for the state of affairs in Zimbabwe following the preliminary round of voting on 29 March and in anticipation of balloting in the presidential runoff election of 27 June.

Representatives of churches and other organizations in Zimbabwe have been contacting and visiting us with news of recent events there. The WCC has also received an extensive dossier from the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa prepared under the leadership of Dr Allan Boesak of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. Such information, together with media reports of violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe, raises our apprehension and concern.

I am forwarding to you the dossier compiled by Dr Boesak and others, with their observations and recommendations, as an excellent and alarming source of information gathered on the ground.

We are dismayed at news of the brutality meted out by police and other government forces in Zimbabwe, and we are appalled at President Mugabe’s statement last week that he and ZANU-PF would go to "war" rather than acknowledge an election victory by the opposition MDC if there were to come to pass. This attitude on the part of the president undermines the integrity of elections and belittles the Zimbabwean electorate.

The peace of Zimbabwe has been shattered. Harassment, beatings, arrests and ransacking of property have already extended into the churches as well as agencies of civil society.

Where the Mugabe government fails in its responsibility to protect the Zimbabwean people, the international community must assume that burden; in this endeavour, the United Nations should assume a leading role. We express our appreciation for the visit of senior UN official, Haile Menkerios, and pray these efforts have lasting impact.

I wish to commend and lend my support to the authors of the open letter "African Leaders Call for Free and Fair Elections in Zimbabwe" which has been widely circulated in newspapers and on the Internet. The authors’ analysis of the situation is insightful, and they call attention to the pressing need for restoration of full access to humanitarian and aid agencies, recruitment of an adequate number of international election observers and a strategy for uniting Zimbabweans following the election.

In light of the reports we have received, the WCC

1.

Calls for an end to atrocities in Zimbabwe, as described in the attached dossier,
2.

Has invited the churches to set aside a season of prayer with Zimbabwe, beginning with a world-wide day of prayer on Sunday 22 June 2008,
3.

Appeals to the government of Zimbabwe to assure free and fair elections,
4.

Appeals to the government to allow international election monitors in urban, suburban and rural areas,
5.

Appeals to the government to allow and encourage humanitarian aid workers to fulfill the needs for water, food, medicine and other life-sustaining resources,
6.

Calls on the churches, especially in southern Africa, to encourage a process of reconciliation in Zimbabwe as soon as the elections have concluded.

Free and fair elections are essential to democracy, and we are anxious to see the success of this process in Zimbabwe. As the WCC Central Committee stated in February of this year:

Although the Bible offers no description of the definitive political system, it indicates that every system has both the potential for participation, and for the abuse of power. For Christians, the Hebrew prophetic traditions – as well as the Christian tradition – offer the reminder that people of faith must embrace the responsibility to be engaged in the civil political systems of which they are a part… In democratic systems, elections serve as a way for people to confer legitimacy on a participatory democratic political system.

We in the WCC appreciate the many efforts being undertaken by the United Nations, and we thank you for your dedication to the well-being of humanity. Please know that the World Council and our member churches support you in the important work of transition and healing that faces the international community in Zimbabwe.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

General Secretary

Friday, June 20, 2008

Indeed, a cross with a ballpoint pen is not enough

The Hlophe saga speaks to the heart of the challenges we face in our communities. The fact that a judge tries to 'squash' charges against a prominent politician reminds us of our communities, where the powerful always wins. It also seems as if this will be the route that the Zimbabwe crisis is going, if we listen to the statements by Robert Mugabe. The scorched earth strategy of Mugabe is paving the way for sham elections, with him staying in power. And let us be reminded that both countries have solid constitutions signed with a ballpoint, as the basis for reconciliation and peace, signed on the basis of our ballpoint votes- and yet it seems that this not enough. Indeed, the Mighty men seems to win the day...

This is the kind of situation that we also find in our communities and the kind of dynamics that sap the energy and hope of the poor, believed to be the weak ones. When people in communities have lost hope in law enforcement agencies to stem the tide of crime and to create peaceful communities, as result of corruption; when the vile criminal are paraded as the Messiah of the poor and oppressed, when the powerful are protected by their 'connections' and superior weaponry, then it is evident that there is a need to something more then mere party politics to save the day. So, what happened to the voices of Mighty Men in this context? It seems as if indeed, their critics are vindicated, in the sense that the voices of these valiant Christian men are silent, when it comes to public matters. One should however applaud the likes of Boesak and Tutu, after all these years, to still make noise; to again, cry, 'enough is enough'. It is in this context, that we as Christians need to recover our prophetic legacy, a legacy that indeed have been written out of the struggle history, written by the powerful, today. Earlier in the year, Albert Nolan rightly indicated that the fundamental mistake that we made as a church, was to think that the structural and social (read 'political')transformations could translate into personal and individual (read: spiritual) transformation. Indeed, we need a recovery of memory to reveal the fundamental role that Christian faith played in the lives of the struggle heroes, like Robert Sobukwe, ZK Matthews, OR Tambo and Steve Bantu Biko. We need a recovery of the soul of the struggle, in this sense the saving of our soul.

Maybe, the perfect storm of the statements and actions of Judge Hlophe, Julius Malema and our president's friend, Robert Mugabe, but also the shattering of our innocence through our ordinary benign (?) poor South Africans recently, is the context for a deep soul-searching, a rude awakening to discover that indeed, much more is needed than the cross written with a ball-point pen....but the need for one written in blood.....the blood of Jesus Christ and his fellow crossbearers.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

on black christian bloggers

Following on Cobus's post, black bloggers needed in this white conversation, let's just reflect quickly further on this. As I indicated, I agree with the assertion of Mandy De Waal, on his post although she is not specifically focusing on the Christian ( or broader religious sector). The sense is that this sector is still very marginal. Be that as it may, the blogosphere at large is not inherently racist. It is open and although, we can agree that access to resources such as an internet connection, is still skewed in favour of white people, the space in this qualified sense is 'free'. Where it comes to the contestation of ideas, where we engage one another, it remains limited and follows the lines of white Christian bloggers talking to one another and the rest, black Christian bloggers well, we are talking to ourselves. (This is fine in itself, as some of us simply post to vent or to reflect- to journal)

This situation, as I state above, is not the problem of the blogoshere, it's merely a reflection of the current Christian conversation anyway. Klippies Kritzinger recently
(actually last year) presented a brilliant paper on a phenomenal young black Christian martyr of the 70s, Steve bantu Biko, more so on what he (Klippies) calls Liberating Whiteness. In this paper he states that there were, in the main, three responses of white people to articulate black Christians (like Biko and proponents of Black Theology): 1) they ignore it and go on as ussual, 2) they sympathise in a paternalistic condescendance or 3) solidatity. (These reflections comes primarily from his doctoral research, under David Bosch, which focussed on The challenge of Black Theology to Christian Mission). I would add, that this finding also come in order of importance, with the majority of white people in 1 and a few in 3. One could use the scheme to look at the blogosphere as well and it would be the same results. So, how do we deal with this?

Of course, its obvious that the fundamental root causes of racism and the ongoing seperation amongst Christians need to be addressed and in terms of that a different blogosphere may emerge. Where the blogosphere can play a role in this, is obviously another question that need to be explored. Are we ready for that kind of journey, is the question and as a start, it seems that Cobus' notion that there is a 'white conversation' out there need to be accepted. What also need to be accepted is that black Christian bloggers ( or black Christians in general for that matter) don't need a ticket to that 'white conversation' or to the coffeeshop, to recieve a badge of authentication, espescially in Africa.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Life

Many times one come at a place where it seems as if your world has come to an end. What are we to do at such time especially when the neat aswers and Scriptures don't do it anymore.

Paul, the apostle seemingly often found himself at such a place. He struggled with it-with the questionmarks, but moreso the (our) neat Godscheme that don't fit the reality. It is here where growth becomes a possibility, spiritual growth. It is here where we discover the living God, where we meet again the living God and leave behind the molten images. This is never easy. But then, growth is life.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Vuyo Mokoena's funeral

Vuyo Mokoena's funeral was a time of celebration, for a life well-lived. The coverage and footage from the Sowetan shows the kind of spirit he still engenders amongst those he inspire and also amongst those that need to hear the gospel. Herewith some glimpes, complements and acknowledgements goes to The Sowetan. As well as a moving tribute to a great servant of the gospel.

The emerging African church... South Africa's unpaid debt

Emergent church, or conversation, as a concept, is not again an invention by the Americans. In 1980 Johann Baptist Metz, prolific liberation theologian published a book translated as 'The Emergent Church, The future of Christianity in a postbourgeois world', containing papers he delivered in the late 70s. In these papers Metz argued that the Western church can never be the same in the wake of the horror of Auschwitz. It is in this context that he calls for a new church emerging in this, a new world. This is relevant, because in a sense we also knew this after apartheid and now, in the aftermath of the shocking xeophobic violence. The church in South Africa can never be the same and in one way, one fundamental way, we are found wanting: we have not emerge as an African church.

No, I'm not talking simply about singing Jabulani or Bayete or of introducing 'African dance' to the worship. This is about a fundamental reorientation of our identity as an African church. The current obsession of theologians and pastors with whatever is new and funky from the West or from US churches, reveal an evident identity crisis. The contextual challenges of these 'foreign' regions are presented as our challenges and so, the answers they've heard from God is gospel to us. Hence our impotence in the face of xehophobia and the humnitarian crisis in the wake of this challenge. Well, this is Africa. This is the real challenges of ministry of being church here in Africa. The violence, the squalor, the desperation, is the 'postmodernism' of today. It is the consequence of the modernism and this is how Africa experience modernity and how it was enigineered from the West: It is real, it is shocking, it is in our face.

Hence, the church emerging, the real church, may have to come to terms with her Africaness, he rootedness in the heart and soil of this continent. This call for a transformation within the self-understanding, within the heart. Only out of this identification can emerge authentic mission, authentic church.