Professor Ezra Chitando, a religious studies lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, has said the Church and religion in general are becoming a vehicle to engage government and are increasingly playing a significant role in the country’s political terrain.
Speaking at a Southern African Political Economy Series (SAPES) policy dialogue forum on the Church, religion and politics, Prof. Chitando said some religious organizations are even arguing that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is their product, as it was mooted by SADC after a violent crackdown on the prayer meeting organized by Christian Alliance in 2007. Several opposition and religious leaders attending the prayer meeting in Highfields suburb in Harare were attacked by the police, and their pictures, including that of a badly bruised Morgan Tsvangirai (currently Prime Minister), were flashed all over the world prompting SADC to finally act on the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
Professor Chitando also said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference issued several pastoral letters in 2009 asking government to be accountable and respect human rights. “If you read their pastoral letters it is criticism after criticism and we ask why, why, why?,” Professor Chitando quoted President Robert Mugabe as saying in response to the Catholic pastoral letters.
The UZ academic added that “The Zimbabwe We Want” was also a Church’s attempt to create dialogue and end the political crisis in the country. The programme was a product of the ZCBC, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Council of Churches.
Professor Chitando said religion also played a key role in placating a restive citizen in the face of political, economic and social crisis in the country in 2008. “Because of the Peace be Still message, which is being preached by mostly Pentecostal Churches, religion is placating a restive population by telling people that the suffering of today is nothing compared to the glory one will achieve in heaven,” he elaborated.