Religion is defined by the Concise English Dictionary as, “the belief in and worship of a supernatural controlling power, especially a personal god or gods.” Religion entails faithfulness to a given set of principles. Most people have real strong attachments to their religious beliefs and any attempt to take them away can only lead to arguments that are as futile as they are pointless. Strong emotions characterise religion. Religion has seen thousands of martyrs putting their lives at the stake.

Religion is what saw early missionaries leaving the comfort of their countries to come to jungles and lion-infested lands on the strength of their convictions to spread the Word. It is religion which motivated the Second Chimurenga with the conviction the freedom fighters had that the great ancestor, Nehanda, had said, “Mapfupa angu achamuka” (My dead bones will rise) before the settlers had killed her.

Religion, to the majority, is a matter of life and death. I know of medical doctors and engineers who gave up their well-paying jobs in heeding religious calls. It follows that religion is no laughing matter.

Now, it is the very nature of religion that it is unique and each person has a right to choose how they want to worship. It is difficult to force anyone into believing anything they do not want to believe and it is not right to try and ram one’s religious beliefs down the throats of others. One ought to convert to a certain religion with willingness and conviction. The very structure of religion makes it difficult to control beliefs or anyone since they have a right even recognized in most constitutions.

Section 60(1) (a)(b) of the new constitution notes that, “Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, which includes freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and freedom to practice and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief whether in public or in private and whether alone  or together with others.”

In light of this clear provision it can only be illegal to interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs. History overflows with examples of violent clashes and tragedies that were precipitated by attempts to control people’s religious beliefs. Most democratic countries thus naturally guarantee people’s right to freedom of worship.

Now, the ugly scenes of violence that rocked Budiriro last week are ample proof that people will not give up their religious beliefs easily, no matter how absurd. The savage attack on police officers will rank as one of the most shocking incidents the country has ever witnessed in religious circles. While regulating religious beliefs is not the most desirable thing to do, there comes a time when some practices simply become blatantly evil to be associated with God.

Zimbabweans will be quick to recall the spine-chilling abuses perpetrated by jailed religious leader Martin Gumbura on his female congregants. Surely, one does not need to be a spiritual being to recognize abuse. The sad thing, though, is that most victims of abuse do not view it as such. It pains to realise how the religious insanity now prevailing in our country opens valves of abuse against God’s name by the heathen. It makes religion appear like a force that blinds its followers when, in essence, it should open their eyes to the goodness of the Creator. It is very sad to see open abuse of women and children all in the name of religion.

One would wonder which God condones grown-up men inserting their fingers in young girls’ privates in the name of religious virginity testing. Which God advocates for denying children their basic right to education? Honestly, which God opposes citizens’ right to own an identity card document? Which godly religion watches people die because they don’t believe in ‘worldly’ clinics?

My friends, there is no right which is not followed by responsibility. One cannot claim to be enjoying their right to religion when it steps on the toes of another’s right. Religion never renders anyone the right to abuse vulnerable members of society. That the Budiriro sect was engaged in deplorable practices should be condemned by all who believe in the sanctity of the name of a pure God.

The Budiriro apostolic sect members’ acts constitute stinking abuse which should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. Also, that they even had the effrontery to assault law enforcers deserves rebuke of the highest form. The need to limit the rights of religious sects has become a priority in this country. Zimbabwe appears to be having more cults than ever in its history. While it must be conceded that religious beliefs are better left unlimited, some things simply can’t be left to go on. The banning of particular practices is really commendable and true religionists should rally behind the protection of the good name of religion.