|How Should the Church Respond to Zimbabwe?|
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them - those who are mistreated - since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3
Many Zimbabweans in this longsuffering country have watched their homes and churches bulldozed and burned by Mugabe's army and police.
People are dying of starvation in a man-made famine. Vast herds of cattle and wildlife have been slaughtered. Crops and stores burned. Many people beaten or murdered. 5000 of productive farms have been looted by government organised mobs.
Not only did these farms feed the entire nation, but they also exported food, providing the highest percentage of foreign exchange earnings. These commercial farms were also the largest employers of labour in the country and provided homes for up to four million farm workers and their dependents.
Yet, President Robert Mugabe, needing a scapegoat for his failed socialism, played the race card and declared: “Farmers are enemies of the state! ... The revolution is yet to be concluded ...Those farmers who resist will die!” Mugabe declared: “We have degrees in violence!” and “I will be a Black Hitler - ten fold!”
While the country was spiralled downwards into lawlessness and savagery, Marxist President, Robert Mugabe, was being applauded as a keynote speaker at the UN’s World Summit on Sustainable Development. At the same time his supporters were slaughtering endangered wildlife and destroying huge forests and game reserves in Zimbabwe. The brazen hypocrisy, of those who claim to oppose racism, enthusiastically applauding one of the most vicious racists on the continent of Africa defies belief.
“Who will rise up for Me against the wicked? Who will make a stand for Me against the workers of iniquity?” Psalm 94:16
The human rights abuses and persecution of Christians by Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF regime in Zimbabwe are well documented. However, the media coverage has been surprisingly subdued. Public outrage in neighbouring countries has often been absent and concern has been erratic and inadequate. Christians in Zimbabwe are shocked that so many of their African brothers seem unconcerned about their afflictions.
Initially optimism was high for Zimbabwe. The war had come to an end and a peaceful settlement had been enforced by Britain. Foreign aid, especially from Britain, America and the European Union flooded the country. Zimbabwe at Independence had so much going for it. It had one of the most productive and efficient agricultural economies in Africa. There was tremendous tourist potential with magnificent scenery, well stocked game reserves, spectacular tourist attractions, such as the Victoria Falls, tremendous natural resources, gold, platinum and other precious ores, a modern banking sector, skilled manufacturers, and an efficient road and railway network. The Zimbabwean people were also amongst the best-educated people in Africa. Today, 27 years later, that once prosperous nation has been impoverished
Some churches, which have taken in homeless and destitute people, have experienced police raids in the middle of the night. Zimbabwean police have attacked women gathered for an all-night prayer meetings and severely assaulted them, 38 were so severely injured that they had to be hospitalised. The focus of this womens’ prayer meeting was to pray for peace. Pastors have been arrested for “subversive prayers.” Many Christians have been arrested, tortured and murdered.
Collen Makumbirofa of the Foundation for Reason and Justice, reports: “the Zimbabwean Communist government is waring against God and His people. The Zimbabwean government is a criminal enterprise that is guilty of corruption, mismanagement, misguided policies, oppressive laws, murder, lies and institutionalised theft…the Zimbabwean economy has collapsed completely due to state terrorism, the expropriation of White owned farms and massive corruption…the destruction of means of livelihood and homes, exorbitant import duties and quotas…freedom of movement and assembly has been curtailed…people are beaten and arrested for being seen in company of three. To those who work, more than half of their pay goes to the government through taxes…thousands are rotting in prison…thousands are being robbed of their possessions by the police, soldiers and militia, and have nowhere to appeal to. Thousands are dying every week…hospitals and clinics have no medicine. Millions are starving because their homes and means of livelihood have been destroyed completely…
“Robbing the poor is one of the greatest evils under the Sun…The selfish world is not interested in giving practical help to the sick, prisoners and starving. Even those in the Free World…are inconsiderate and have closed their ears to our cries in Zimbabwe. Women are being robbed and raped every day, men have been disempowered, children, suffer much pain as their mothers have no food… “
Rev. Molefe Tseletse, at a prayer meeting for Zimbabwe in Johannesburg, declared: “It is a lie to say that there is no problem or crisis in Zimbabwe. The Church in South Africa must speak the truth even if there might be divisions among us, let there be.”
One Zimbabwean woman stood up at a prayer meeting in Johannesburg and declared: “They have destroyed my home. What will I do? In South Africa, the police can arrest me any time and take me to Lindela Detention Camp. I'm sick…if they take me to Lindela I know I will die there.” Lindela is the South African detention camp for illegal immigrants. Human rights groups have documented many people who have died in this camp.
Collen Makumbirofa reports that more than 2 million Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa to escape the severe political and religious persecutions in Zimbabwe. He writes: “South African Department of Home Affairs is characterised by unprecedented corruption over asylum seekers and refugees. The Home Affairs officials demand bribes from poor asylum seekers…even the holders of asylum permits are required to pay bribes to the police…Those who fail to pay bribes end up in the notorious Lindela Detention Camp… Most of the people deported to Zimbabwe will be harassed, tortured and beaten by Zimbabwean authorities.
“What also causes much pain to Zimbabweans in South Africa is the carelessness and apathy of most South African churches. They love Mugabe more than their Christian brothers.
“A genocide is taking place in Zimbabwe. The African Union and United Nations are useless. They have ignored many genocides in Africa. Millions face starvation. More than 3 million have fled Zimbabwe. What about those…many slaves in Zimbabwe: Do you care about us?
“Since Mugabe came to power, Zimbabwe has been transformed from an African paradise with a 4.5% growth rate to the fastest shrinking economy in the world. Many hundreds of opposition members have been murdered by the government …The largest independent newspaper, The Daily News, has been bludgeoned, beaten and bombed into silence, as has the last remaining community radio station,” reports Debra
“ZANU has set up compulsory Indoctrination Centres for young people, teaching them blind loyalty to the ruling party and its leader and hatred of political opponents, especially Whites…and inducted into assassination techniques…in Matabeleland is the memory of the terrible massacres, purge and rape, the Gukurahundi, unleashed during the North Korean era by the Fifth Brigade. No one knows the number of the victims…a scorched land, a ghostlike land of silence and destroyed villages, and survivors too traumatised to speak.”
Church of England missionary, Rev. Arthur Lewis, who has served the Zimbabwean people for decades, reports: “Zimbabwe is now in a desperate and chaotic condition, apart from the tyranny and tortures which grows daily. Hunger stalks millions in the country. Commonplace items are often unobtainable…garbage is not collected. Inflation rockets. Britain, colonialism and drought are blamed for everything. But the people did not go hungry during Rhodesia's frequent droughts. The environmental devastation will take generations to repair. The farmlands are being wrecked, forestlands burned and the game in the reserves are being snared, shot and eaten. Many of the country's assets are being sold off to South Africans, the Chinese, Libyans and other foreigners. And the Zimbabwean government’s filthy jails are filled to overflowing…a tortured, starving and unarmed people without friendly neighbours struggles to survive…prayer is strength for those who otherwise have no hope.”
“Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.” Psalm 71:4
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO), inflation in Zimbabwe has hit 4530%.
At a debate in the House of Commons, in London, the following facts on Zimbabwe were revealed: 7 million Zimbabweans are dependant on external food aid. 75% of Zimbabwe's population are now living below the poverty line. Out of originally 5,500 productive commercial farms, today less than 500 farms are in any way operational. In fact what the Zimbabwean government calls “land reform” has proven to be nothing other than farm invasions by mobs who loot, burn and destroy what were once productive farms and then return with their loot to urban areas.
“For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate robbery...” Isaiah 61:8
The economy in Zimbabwe is one of the fastest shrinking in the world. Unemployment is 90%. People in Zimbabwe have been bluntly told that they will not get any food aid unless they vote for the party of Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe has plummeted to 34 years for men and 33 years for women – the lowest in the world. 24% of the population has been recorded as being HIV positive. There are already 700,000 AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe.
In a report by the European Community's Court of Auditors, it was recorded that 89% of aid money from the European Union had been embezzled by Robert Mugabe and his cronies.
The latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index rates Zimbabwe as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, marked by “rampant” and “severe corruption.”
Amnesty International has documented thousands of cases of torture by the Zimbabwean government. Nearly half of the Members of Parliament belonging to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been assaulted, mostly by the police. Many of the opposition Members of Parliament have been arrested, some imprisoned and several have been murdered. A quarter of the opposition Members of Parliament have survived assassination attempts. Not only have opposition Members of Parliament been assaulted, but even their lawyers. Human Rights groups have documented literally hundreds of thousands of human rights abuses, including severe beatings, abductions, torture and murder, in the last 7 years.
Over 4 million Zimbabweans have fled the country. It is reported that 1.1 million Zimbabweans are now living in the United Kingdom. According to SAPA, 500,000 health professionals, teachers, accountants, scientists and engineers have left Zimbabwe. This massive brain drain of the most qualified Zimbabweans, particularly in the health and education sectors, undermines any possibility of reversing the catastrophic collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.
The state run media are continually broadcasting racist hate speech against Whites. The White population in Zimbabwe has been reduced from 300,000 in 1980 to less than 30,000 today. Many of those left are pensioners, economic prisoners whose pensions and savings have been wiped out by Mugabe’s hyperinflation. It is to such destitute people that Frontline Fellowship’s missions of mercy smuggle in food and medicines.
Vast areas of forest and grazing land billions of Dollars worth of coffee plantations, forestry, nature reserves and farmland have been destroyed by uncontrolled fires.
“How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished.” Jeremiah 12:4
I remember, in the 1970's, when a Rhodesian Dollar was three-times stronger than the US Dollar. It would take US$ 3 to buy 1 Rhodesian Dollar. Now, despite dropping 3 zeros from its currency, it takes Z$600,000 to buy one US dollar.
Commentator Cathy Buckle fears “Zimbabwe's natural resources are being looted and the environment is being completely destroyed… It's one hundred times worse than reported…many of you have seen the film Hotel Rwanda and what happened there by the world turning its back on the horror. Please do something about it now…!” The Whites in Zimbabwe are being vilified and targeted just as the Tutsi were in Rwanda.
British Economist Robert Guest writes: “Tribalism, racism and sectarianism…bigotry: treating individuals badly, not because of something they have done, but because they belong to a particular group. People find all sorts of unjust reasons to hate, and unjust governments exploit them all.” Ethnic differences have been “deliberately inflamed by unscrupulous leaders…”
One letter I received from Zimbabwe pleads: “We are all terrified at what they are going to destroy next…I mean they are actually ploughing down brick and mortar houses and one White family with twin boys of 10 had no chance of salvaging anything when 100 riot police came in with AK's and bulldozers and demolished their beautiful house (5 bedrooms and pine ceilings) because it was 'too close to the airport'…it's genocide in the making and if you do not believe me, read the Genocide Report by Amnesty International, which says we are in level 7 (level 8 is after its happened and everyone is in denial)…We are all in a fearfully dangerous situation here…the pall of smoke all around our city is a reality, the thousands of homeless people sleeping outside in zero degree Celsius with no food, water, shelter and bedding are a reality. Today a family approached me…with two small children. Their home was trashed and they will have to sleep outside. We already support eight people and a child on this property and the electricity is going up next month by 250%, as is water. How can I take another family of four? And yet how can I turn them away to sleep out in the open?”
A press statement from The Churches in Bulawayo tells of night time raids on churches and forced removals of old people being cared for: “The churches in Bulawayo have been working hard to alleviate the suffering of the displaced people at about 9:30PM the police forced themselves into a number of churches where these people had been kept, the police went on to commandeer them into open trucks. We watched with horror. Included with these people were the sick…the elderly, women and little children…children who were already asleep were woken up by the riot police and frog marched into the open police trucks…this operation was undertaken under the cover of darkness between 9PM and 5AM. The removal of the innocent, poor, weak, voiceless, and vulnerable members of society by riot police is inhuman, brutal and insensitive and in total disregard of human dignity. These people are not criminals, but bona fide citizens of this nation. It seems the crime they have committed is that they are poor…the destruction of their simple structures and meagre property they owned…people died, some are traumatised. The rule of law must be restored. The churches should be allowed to continue with their God-given mandate and mission…”
All private and church-owned schools have been placed under direct state supervision... Many of the country's schools have pass rates of only 3 to 8%. Thousands of children can no longer even afford to go to school at all.
Mugabe is now refusing food aid into the country…satan came to lie, kill and destroy. We are in a war with satan and his agencies. These dictators fight God and His people… The major problem of Africa is Socialism, an insane lust for power, unprecedented corruption and gross. We are a very rich continent, but our governments are our problem and the philosophy of Socialism. The solution for Africa is the spread of true Reformed Christianity. Socialism is un-Biblical and it destroys society.
“Then you will know the truth; and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 Rescue those being led away to death (in Zimbabwe); hold back those staggering towards slaughter. Proverbs 28:10-11”
How did it come to this? How could one of Africa's most prosperous nations have been so mismanaged as to now be one of the poorest nations on earth?
Robert Guest, the African Editor of The Economist, has observed that Mugabe's anti-White racism, state sponsored terrorism and land invasions have resulted in a national suicide. “Corruption, incompetence and bad economic policies can always be relied upon to squander any amount of donor cash.”
Guest concludes that Africa has: “Two big problems. First, the tendency of African elites to spend other people's money on themselves…Second, the tendency to believe that Africa's problems are someone else's fault.”
“They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity.” 2 Peter 2:19
Even under war conditions with total international economic sanctions, Rhodesia had the lowest unemployment and the lowest crime rate in the world. And nobody starved. Today, in peacetime, even with foreign aid, Zimbabwe has one of the highest crime rates, inflation rates and skyrocketing unemployment rates in the world. And its prisons and cemeteries are overflowing. “Freedom” under Robert Mugabe in peace has proved to be infinitely worse than the “oppression under Ian Smith” during the war.
Frontline Fellowship has been working in Zimbabwe since 1982. As the situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated, so we have increased our activities in that desperately needy country.
In recent years we have distributed many tonnes of emergency relief aid, food and medicines to starving Christians in Zimbabwe. Amidst the state-orchestrated racial hatred, lawlessness and savagery, Frontline mission work in Zimbabwe has become particularly difficult and dangerous.
As we are continuing to conduct multiple mission trips into Zimbabwe, for the safety of our workers and those we serve, we cannot say much about our ministry inside Zimbabwe, but please do continue to pray for our field workers and the evangelists, pastors and teachers whom we are serving and equipping. Pray also for the impact of the tonnes of Gospel literature which we are distributing throughout Zimbabwe and for our Boxes with Love Project of providing food and medicines to destitute Zimbabwe pensioners.
“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40
The only hope for Zimbabwe is sincere Repentance, Biblical Reformation and Spiritual Revival. We tend to get the governments we deserve. An immoral and dishonest people get a wicked and corrupt government. Many in Zimbabwe supported Mugabe even as he was massacring the Matabele and stealing farms from productive White farmers. Only as the economy has collapsed, and their jobs and livelihoods have suffered, have the bulk of Zimbabweans turned against Mugabe. There needs to be an honest admission of the selfishness, greed, covetousness and malice which is at the root of this disaster. Zimbabwe needs to repent before God and rebuild their nation on Biblical Principles.
Persistent prayer, publicity and pressure provide protection for the persecuted. (Luke 18:1-7) Please distribute copies of this magazine article to friends and family and at your church. Pray for the Christians suffering in Zimbabwe. Mobilise your congregation and Bible study group to pray. And write to your elected representative to urge decisive political and economic pressure to be brought to bear against the ZANU regime in Zimbabwe. Encourage your church to support missions of mercy to the suffering Christians in Zimbabwe. You could also phone, fax or write to your nearest Zimbabwe embassy to protest against their racist and lawless policies of oppression.
“Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause for all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Dr. Peter Hammond