Earlier this month, Mayor Thaba Moyo appealed to the churches and Bulawayo residents to pray for the rains ‘because God is the owner of the rains.’ 

Around that time, the Christian Alliance leader Useni Sibanda spoke about religion and politics in the following terms, “Churches have been hesitant to vote. We want to encourage everyone to register as a voter, so that we do not just pray, but take a step of deciding our own destiny through exercising our right to vote.”

One wonders what kind of social constraints Zimbabweans should leave to God (and ask Him to take care of it)? And which of those constraints are we entitled by God to act upon, co-create with HIm as free individuals?

Back in 1556, the Portuguese Dominican friar Gaspar da Cruz, visited the Chinese port city of Guangzhou where he heard about the Shaanxi earthquake, the deadliest earthquake on record that killed approximately 830,000 people. 

Being a Christian (like Mr Moyo and Mr Sibanda), the Catholic missionary viewed the earthquake through the prism of his faith. The friar was certainly prone to the scientific and political biases of his time. Just like Bulawayo’s mayor or the Christian Alliance leader are today.

Back in the 16th century, Gaspar da Cruz saw the megathrust earthquake as a possible punishment for people’s sins, and the Great Comet of 1556 as, possibly, the sign of this calamity (as well as perhaps the sign of the birth of the Antichrist).

Some two centuries later, Gaspar da Cruz’s native land experienced a natural disaster that almost totally destroyed Lisbon and adjoining areas — the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The earthquake had struck on All Saints’ Day and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the devout Catholic citizens.

Once again, theologians would speculate on the religious cause and message, seeing the earthquake as a manifestation of divine judgement. Ironically, the Alfama, Lisbon’s red-light district, suffered only minor damage.

Back in those days, the humanity’s knowledge about the nature of earthquakes was vague, to say the least. It was only natural, to take refuge in religion, and religion only.

Is the water problem in Bulawayo today (that leaves most residents without water supply for four days in a row) in the same category as the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Should we look at this natural challenge the way the 18th century European society scrutinized the 1755 earthquake — as an out-of-this-world occurance?

Is the invocation by politicians to pray to God just a way to pacify the people without working out a sustainable solution to the preventable nature risk? And apart from the vibrant prayer to our Lord, what steps should the faithful of Zimbabwe take in deciding their own destiny?