Posted by: Titus Presler | March 29, 2011

Manicaland bishop details Zimbabwe persecution, offers inspiration

A number of elements stand out from the pastoral letter issued by the Rt. Rev. Julius Makoni, Bishop of Manicaland in Zimbabwe (and reproduced below), as he and the diocese continue to struggle against the opposition of renegade bishop Elson Jakazi and the complicity of Zimbabwe’s police and security forces:

• The reading public that is aware of Peter Godwin’s just published The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe, should understand that the suffering of Anglicans in the dioceses of Manicaland and Harare is intimately related to the oppression of Mugabe’s regime.  As Mugabe loyalists, Elson Jakazi and Nolbert Kunonga are part of the vast patronage system through which Mugabe has been able to hold on to power.

• As noted previously on this blog, Bp. Makoni’s situation in Manicaland is more difficult than that of Bp. Chad Gandiya in the Diocese of Harare, for in Manicaland Jakazi has been able to hold on to more of the church districts and church buildings.

• As Makoni notes, police in Manicaland are complicit with Jakazi’s efforts to seize church properties and eject legitimately appointed Anglican clergy.  The fact that some police have expressed their discomfort and disagreement with their orders indicates that the legitimate CPCA (Church of the Province of Central Africa) diocese has considerable popular support.  Police officers’ feeling of being coerced into illegal actions illustrates the power of the Mugabe patronage system.

• Makoni’s biblically based spiritual counsel to his people is truly transcendent in its import, highlighting the power of the divine vision for Christians experiencing persecution.  The situation is so extreme that there are few practical suggestions that Makoni can offer.  Instead, he directs Christians to the springs of their faith and to the horizon of God’s redemption.  This is genuinely apostolic leadership on the part of a bishop.

• The clergy shortage that Makoni cites is a perennial issue in Manicaland, as it is in many African dioceses.  During my rural pastoral ministry at Bonda during the 1980s, the diocese had what could only be estimated at about 350 congregations, with about 35 clergy to serve them.  My own responsibility was fairly modest, just 12 congregations, whereas Alban Makoni in Matsika Parish oversaw 55 congregations.  As Gaul Theological College got underway later in Harare, the shortage was somewhat assuaged, but troubles at Gaul instigated first by former Harare Bishop Jonathan Siyachitema and currently by Nolbert Kunonga made it difficult sometimes for bishops to send students to Gaul.  The current persecution of the Diocese of Manicaland has doubtless stemmed somewhat the flow of aspirants for the ordained ministry.

• Makoni’s anticipation that after the current plague of persecution is ended, some of church buildings will not be large enough to accommodate returning congregations is not pie in the sky but quite realistic.  As noted in my book, Transfigured Night: Mission and Culture in Zimbabwe’s Vigil Movement, many churches overflowed with people after the cessation of persecution that prevailed during the Liberation Struggle, and some building indeed had to be enlarged to accommodate the hundreds of returning and new Christians.

Bp. Makoni’s letter follows:

PASTORAL LETTER 22/02/2011

ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF MANICALAND (CPCA)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the love of God our Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

I write this letter with great appreciation of your proclamation of the Gospel in your churches, communities and families and your perpetual faithfulness to the spirit of Jesus Christ despite the hardships and dangers you face every day. In Christ we have a model of fidelity, commitment, faithfulness and obedience to God and our calling. Although faith does not insulate us from the daily challenges and complexities of life, it intensifies and propels our desire to confront them boldly in light of the Gospel which has come to us through Christ. Faith in the Risen Christ is our greatest and ever-ready resource as we soldier on through the myriad problems of being harassed by the police [acting on] behalf of Norbert Kunonga, Elson Jakazi and their supporters.

Kunonga and Jakazi continue to manipulate the security forces. An order or command given to police officers by Dr. Kunonga is taken and exercised as if it were coming from the police commissioner. Some police officers have been honest enough to say, “We know that what we are doing is unfair and not lawful, but if we do not do it we risk losing our jobs because Dr Kunonga has the power to do so.” Some police officers are also living in great fear of someone who does not even exist in their structures. I believe all those who join the security services do so in loyalty to their country. All citizens including our Church members look up to them as the custodians of their security as well as freedom. When they carry out their duty properly, they are contributing to the maintenance of peace. However, we are baffled because in many of our Churches, police are not associated with peacemaking but with wreaking havoc and harassment of innocent, harmless, and peaceful worshipers.

Every day we look for justice, but all we see is injustice (Isaiah 5:7). Every Sunday we yearn for fellowship, edification and spiritual growth, but all we hear are cries for help from congregations who have been forced out of their churches, churchwardens and priests who have been arrested by police. At St David’s Bonda Church on the 6th of February 2011, police from DC Mutasa [headquarters of Mutasa District, north of Mutare, popularly called DC, after “District Commissoner”] forced the CPCA congregation of about 300 out of the Church, claiming that Mr. Chiwanza (Jakazi’s priest) was the one authorized to use the Church building. In actual fact, this is contrary to the High Court Consent Order of 12 October 2009.

Again it defies all logic to have three hundred worshippers worshiping in the open, sitting on wet grass, in cold and rainy weather, whilst their church building is empty. Mr Chiwanza should have been embarrassed to be in the church by himself. He has no followers at Bonda, He simply disappeared from the empty church. The Bonda congregation is vibrant in or outside the church. I am greatly concerned that in order to conceal their embarrassment, Mr. Jakazi and his priests are now forcing the police to drive our congregations at least 200 meters away from the church premises. Psalm 72:12, however, reminds us that “He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.”

We strive for peace as a nation and as communities. Peace is the product or fruit of order. Order in society must be shaped on the basis of respect for the transcendence of God and the unique dignity of each person, which is in turn is based on freedom, justice, truth and love. A leader or society that ignores these basic facts is on shaky ground. Dr Kunonga and Mr Jakazi clearly have no respect for God as they are chasing worshipers from the house of God. They have no respect for the law either as they are breaking into churches and priests’ houses with police support. At St David’s Bonda Mr. Chiwanza hired a locksmith to break into the church building and also went on to break into a safe in the church. The police watched this criminal activity in silence. Dr Kunonga and Mr. Jakazi and their followers are putting their trust in police and other security forces, but we will put our trust in the Lord. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7-8). Joshua 1:9 tells that our true courage comes from God, who is stronger than our mightiest foes, and that He wants to use His strength to help us.

Respect is earned. One has to work for it. Unfortunately, Mr. Jakazi has been out in full force to terrorise priests and church councils as well as headmasters in Anglican schools and their School Development Committees (SDCs), demanding respect and recognition. St Anne’s Goto High School in Wedza District is under CPCA and had a new deputy headmaster who is a faithful Anglican under CPCA, being appointed by the Ministry of Education. Mr. Jakazi tried to terrorize the headmaster and force him to fire the new deputy headmaster. The headmaster was very professional and did not give in to the silly demand. Mr. Jakazi tried to intimidate and manipulate the District Education Officer, the Provincial Education Director, and even the Permanent Secretary of Education, but failed at all levels. He is currently trying to visit, destabilize, and demand levies from a lot of Anglican schools in Manicaland where he is no longer recognized as a bishop.

I would like to advise all school headmasters, teachers, school boards, and school development committees in all Anglican schools in Manicaland to remain firm and professional and not give in to pressure and intimidation. Schools like St James Nyamhingura and Holy Family Nyatsanza have been visited and intimidated, but we ask them not to give in.

Given the current unstable climate, our church leaders, especially priests, need spiritual stamina and wisdom. We can be nourished and sustained by adhering to priestly spirituality. Priests, and indeed all Christians, are called to demonstrate the commitment, vigor, generosity and energy demonstrated by Christ, who offered himself out in love for us on the cross. An effective priest must possess or live the priestly spirituality. Although this kind of spirituality is a gift and a blessing, it requires proper maintenance and care. The challenges and critical suffering that we are going through as a Diocese should not at any point divert our attention from Christ or destroy our spiritual stability. Love, compassion, respect, humility, self-discipline and obedience are still paramount, even in our current crisis.

We continue to suffer a critical shortage of trained priests in the Diocese, since we only have about thirty percent of the total number of priests that we should have. Therefore, there is a serious need both for more careful vocational discernment on the part of Church leaders, and for more in-depth education and instruction of aspirants to the priesthood, given the current magnitude of our crisis in the Diocese. Despite the precariousness of the means available to do so, by faith this will be possible. Every ecclesiastical division has to play its part by contributing towards clergy training in various ways especially through Lenten offerings which go towards clergy training. This year we have one deacon, four candidates who will be going to Bishop Gaul College, and three candidates who are studying with Zimbabwe Theological Education by Extension.

The Diocese continues to experience serious financial difficulties. We are failing to pay clergy stipends, office staff, and legal fees. Our parishioners are struggling to support their parishes financially. What the Diocese is getting from monthly assessments from parishes is inadequate to meet the costs of running the Diocese. Our lawyers have represented us in many cases and we have not yet paid them. We owe them in excess of U.S.$30,000 for work done in the past six months alone. The lawyers have informed us that they will not attend to any of our cases until we clear our arrears. Given the prevailing situation where our parishioners and priests are arrested often, we cannot do without the legal help. However, our challenges have not dampened our spirits, nor have they affected our hope and faith in God. Our congregations are vibrant and continue to grow despite worshiping outside their church buildings. Some of the church buildings may be too small when we finally get back to our churches.

This letter is intended as an expression of Christian faith, affirming the confidence we have that the Risen Christ is with us at this moment of crisis. Our strong belief in Christ’s presence and power among us sustains us in confronting the awesome challenge we have in the Diocese of Manicaland armed with the precious resource of faith.

Be encouraged by Isaiah 41:10: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Prayer is the lifeline that connects us to the Lord God our helper, who has promised so many blessings for us and who is ready to deliver the help we need. We all need to remain connected to the Lord our God through praying without ceasing. The time of Lent is an opportune time to intensify our spiritual warfare through praying and fasting.

We thank all those who are supporting our Diocese – in kind, financially, and spiritually through prayers. That support is making a big difference and continues to give us more strength to soldier on. Special mention goes to Southwark Diocese (Woolwich Episcopal Area), U.S.P.G., Godalming Parish, St Mary the Virgin Hampton Parish, CR Fathers at Mirfield and other organizations and individuals who have committed a lot of resources to help the Diocese of Manicaland.

In Christ’s service,

+ Julius Manicaland

 

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Julius T. Makoni

Anglican Diocese of Manicaland CPCA

146 Herbert Chitepo Street

Mutare

Zimbabwe

Advertisements

Responses

  1. It’s a sad situation in Manicaland, but, like what Bishop said, we put our faith in God. We know we are going to be answered.
    Mukritsu usanete [Christian, do not tire]
    Tore Mapfumo ako [Take up your spears]
    NAMATA URINDE [Watch and pray]
    [These words are from a very popular Shona hymn.]

  2. My Lord Bishop Julius Makoni
    I pray for you and your diocese. I served in the neighboring diocese based in Mozambique (Lembobo). Indeed my parish was in Manica, a mere 40 or so kilometers from Mutare. I attended the enthronement of the caretaker bishop Peter Hatendi before you came in. I know what is happening and it pains me so much to hear what Jakazi and his henchmen are doing. Do they believe in Christ? If so, which Christ? Take heart my Lord Bishop. No matter how long is the night, the dawn is sure to come. And the Church will be triumphant. I am now back in Kenya but would not hesitate to come there as a missionary – if an opportunity arises.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: