Every single day courageous and faithful Christians in Zimbabwe are suffering and dying through their resistance of the brutal reign of president Robert Mugabe. You would never know this is true from the lack of interest or response of conservative Christians in America. Of all the causes that are taken up by the Christian Right I have not heard a single voice lifted on behalf of the church in Zimbabwe and their struggle to resist the reign of terror led by President Mugabe.
In January eight high-profile Christian leaders were arrested by security forces as they, and hundreds of supporters, opened a new office of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, an international agency that promotes non-violent resistance to Mugabe’s rule. But Mugabe’s government continues to crack down on this resistance as the nation faces total economic and social collapse. Zimbabweans struggle to survive with an inflationary rate of 1,700% as well as widespread unemployment and profound poverty. More than 3/4ths of the people live in poverty, unemployment is at 80%, and hordes of people are escaping to South Africa as refugees. Mugabe has led the nation since 1980 and every call for political and social reform has been met with more force and resistance. Other African leaders are complicit in allowing this to happen, including the president of neighboring South Africa.
Thankfully, the Lutheran World Federation has called on the international community to respond. And the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, with 75 million members in 216 countries, has also urged action by a pan-African Union to act to end this oppression. I support the actions of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches as a Reformed Christian.
While the Christian Right struggles to "rescue" America it almost universally ignores the plight of the poor and oppressed around the world, as well as in our own country. Evangelicals are rarely heard from when issues like Mugabe and Zimbabwe rise to international attention. Why? Could it be that what I have called our "America-centric" mindset is in fact a form of worldliness? Could it be that we simply don’t care about profoundly Christian concerns beyond our own land unless they represent efforts to win individual souls to Christ through our flawed approaches to mission?
Look, I believe the free-market is needed to help Africa lift itself up economically and to experience and practice real freedom. But the free-market will not work when the leadership is corrupt and the economy is a disaster because of oppressive governments. The problem is simple—most of the world doesn’t care enough to do anything about Zimbabwe. While we fight a war in Iraq, ostensibly to build freedom and to protect our own national interests and what we believe to be peace in the Middle East, we treat places like Zimbabwe as unimportant at the very best. To my mind, something is very wrong with this picture. Evangelicals need to join their Catholic and mainline Lutheran and Reformed brothers and sisters in resisting Mugabe and fighting for true reform in Zimbabwe. If we will not defend the helpless and the weakest then our witness will be blunted and our prophetic edge, if we still have one left, will be lost entirely.
Pray for Zimbabwean Christians. Better yet, do something about Zimbabwe if you have an opportunity. Your brothers and sisters need you to truly love them. Talking about politics is easy, doing something that saves lives and cultures is what really matters. Consider James 2:12-26. I don’t hear much serious preaching on James in our conservative churches. I fear that I know why. We are American Christians first, and kingdom Christians second, if at all. We love the message of faith, but we shun works of mercy and compassion when it costs us something. Something is very wrong with this picture.
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Why Are We Silent About Zimbabwe?
To be honest, I haven’t heard of this situation until you brought it up in this post. Has any Christian news agencies posted on this in the last few months?
My view of the religious right is that their primary interest is in their own safety, comfort, and freedoms. As long as they are not being persecuted or having their rights curtailed, they will not go across the street to help anyone else. Yes, it is Americacentric thinking. While we continue to build huge mega-churches our brothers and sisters are being killed and starving to death.
If this sounds a little harsh, forgive me and take into consideration my political background.
Thanks for bringing this up. As a person who lives in South Africa, it’s obviously much more closer to home compared to your other readers who live far off.
One need only look at their currency strength in relation to their neighbouring countries to see that Zimbabwe is in a lot of trouble. Sadly, the situation isn’t helped when the President of South Africa, Mbeki, is silent when it comes to Zimbabwe. It is quite ironic, that while most “developed” countries are so worried about terror threats and dictators that Zimbabwe is given the blind eye. I don’t think anyone can deny that Mugabe is a dictator, and yet, where is the outcry and public protests?
A double standard?
John: Thanks for bringing up the issue of Zimbabwe. Yet again, America and its Western allies are going to have a lot to answer for in their neglect of a people in horrendous need. We obviously learned nothing from Rwanda, nothing from Serbia and all that our Governments can do is call for another meeting, another warning and watch whle people will die today. One point that you make which has great validity is that it is difficult to do something when the central governments of these countries are totally corrupt and despotic. But is the fact that Zimbabwe and Sudan do not really offer us anything that is the reason for our silence? Or is it that in our comfortable society we cannot begin to imagine children without food, no schools, digging up roots to boil for food, no medicine and numerous people just disappearing? The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe seems to be leading the church outrage with the Mugabe regime. We need to actively support them in word, deed and prayer. By any standard, this Government in Zimbabwe and in Sudan for that matter have lost their legitimacy. There needs to be a massive uprising against this outrageous example of man’s inhumanity to man.
Maybe people are silent because in our heart of hearts we know that in order for change to happen it means that some people must die, or be beaten by metal pipes or tortured in prison. Many have lost hope in politcal solutions. Why not send missionaries to Zimbabwe or be a missionary and maybe God will raise up a “Moses” among the people of Zimbabwe?
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