Even in Mbare you need to use “politically correct language.” I have learnt that handicapped people want to be called “differently abled”. At least those fluent in English – the Shona speakers don’t know what the fuss is all about.

“AIDS orphans,” I am told, is discriminatory, even though it describes the conditions of children who have lost their parents due to AIDS quite accurately.

On Saturday I met “our single parents,” a group of women who have children, though no husbands. In theory, men would also qualify to belong to this group – divorcees, widowers, fathers left with their children after the mother had bolted. (But in fact there are none). I found out that they are not happy to be called “single parents.” They feel discriminated against, despised, suspected by married women of having designs on their husbands, being “loose women” etc.

They have a hard time to make a living, support their children and send them to school. Unlike many men, they have a deep sense of responsibility for their fatherless families.

Now we try to find a new name for their group where they give and receive support: young widows, divorcees, young mothers never properly married and abandoned by the fathers of their children. Women determined to make a new start in their lives even without the support of men. They need to be recognized in our community and be accorded respect and dignity.

Our Anglican brothers and sisters demonstrate to us what “Church” means: not a brick building, but a community. Those we hosted at our place have no buildings (they used to have them, but they were evicted from them), but they are a living community. Whereas those who occupy the church buildings are no community: they have the infrastructures and administrative centres, but hardly anybody to administer – “chiefs without Indians,” a skeleton without flesh.

A big church compound in the south-west corner of Mbare is empty. Without people. Without children and life. They have the law on their side. But not justice. Justice has changed sides and is with the living community. At times the law is an ass.

See related material

Book presentation: “Ted Rogers: Jesuit, Social Pioneer and AIDS Activist in Zimbabwe – A Memoir” (Aug 2)

Anglican Youth Association of Harare event (May 25)

On Catholics’ solidarity with Zimbabwe’s Anglican community