ANGLICANS in Zimbabwe have much to teach those in the UK about sustaining hope in adversity, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, has said after a visit to the country.
Last month, he went to Southwark’s four link dioceses (Central Zimbabwe, Matabeleland, Masvingo, and Manicaland), and the capital, Harare. Despite the problems — the country is enduring
a chaotic economy, public-sector strikes, and unemployment of 80 per cent — he did not wish to “paint an entirely gloomy picture”.
”People are very joyful in their churches,” he said last Friday. “There is a wonderful, humbling sense of hope in the Church in Zimbabwe. We have so much to learn . . . about sustaining hope in adversity, about continuing to be positive, about continuing to do the Lord’s work.”
In the diocese of Manicaland, stability had returned in the past three years, after a “long period of exile”, during which churches and houses had been “misappropriated” during the tenure of Nolbert Kunonga, the excommunicated former Bishop of Harare (News, 22 October 2012). The Church was now “properly putting the focus on outreach and love to all God’s people”.
The Bishop of Masvingo, the Rt Revd Godfrey Tawonezvi, charged with founding the diocese 15 years ago with just two priests, had built up a “wonderful infrastructure”, including a training centre at the cathedral, Bishop Chessun said. There was also an “amazing plan” to establish an Anglican university.
Challenges were nevertheless in evidence. In Matabeleland, drought had been followed by “substantial rains” that had damaged crops and roads, causing flooding in areas: “One set of problems has been replaced by another set of challenges, which is very much the nature of life in Zimbabwe,” the Bishop said. It was reported last week that more than 200 people had been killed in torrential storms, and almost 2000 made homeless.
There was also “great concern” about next year’s presidential elections, he said, and there were “doubts as to whether it will be a free and fair election”.
Last month, President Mugabe’s wife told a rally that her husband would take part even if they had to “field him as a corpse”.
In July, the Anglican Church was among the signatories to a letter that mourned the “untold suffering of the masses” and the “failure by our government and almost all political leaders to be responsive”. It called on the Church to “speak out prophetically against any unjust system” (News, 22 July).
“The Bishops are not conducting a campaign of disaffection but they feel they have a moral and God-given duty to hold with the people in their challenges and sufferings and to name what those are and come up with constructive solutions,” said Bishop Chessun. The Church had made the expansion of schools a “major priority”, he said. “The people are preparing for better days . . . Nothing will be achieved by a media campaign aiming at attacking individuals, but everything will be achieved by educating people in the ways of justice and peace, and working for good governance and integrity.”
Bishop Chessun’s “Lent Call” is seeking donations to support food-security projects in Zimbabwe.