The United Methodist Church promotes peace in Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church is committed to ensuring peace and justice prevail in the country during the elections on July 30 and in the aftermath of the polls.
In the lead up to Zimbabwe’s election July 30, the church conducted a peace and justice workshop for over 60 pastors and leaders at its headquarters. Participants learned and discussed how to promote peace and resolve conflicts in their congregations and communities.
“The aim of the workshop was to educate church leaders and pastors to promote peace towards and after the 2018 harmonized elections,” said Rebecca Tendai Gurupira, who heads the Ministry with Women, Children and Youth.
“As a church, we noticed that peace prevailed before the elections, but we fear there may be violence after the polls,” she said.
“The workshop was designed to educate pastors not to show their political allegiance to their congregations. They should accommodate all church members regardless of political affiliation,” said Gurupira.
Chitungwiza-Marondera District Superintendent, the Rev. Portia Kanoyangwa, was one of the clergy members who attended the workshop under Peacebuilding and non Violence which is funded by the Peace with Justice grant From General Board of Church and Society.
“This program is not just for the elections. We need peace in the country always. We need peace in our families and communities,” she said.
Zimbabwe East Annual Conference lay leader, Simon Mafunda, said the Church was grateful for the peace which prevailed before the elections.
“I wish we had more time to go back and cascade what we have learned at this workshop to all other members of the church,” he said.
Zimbabwe West Annual Conference Deputy Administrative Assistant to the Bishop and Connectional Ministries Director, the Rev. Vienna Mutezo, said church members should promote peace every day.
“This is not just an event, but a process for life. The absence of visible conflict does not mean there is peace; peace is personified in our behavior,” she said.
She later said, “Conflict and violence cause scars but emotional and psychological scars cement history. If you cause a psychological scar, it will remain longer than a physical scar.”
Mutezo encouraged participants to spread the message of peace. “Let us also revisit the text messages we send on our phones and see if they are appropriate for our audience,” she said.
The Rev. Annie Grace Chin’onzo said everyone needed peace in their lives and it was important to share lessons from the workshop with those who did not attend.
“We cannot contain peace. It manifests when spread, it has to be put into practice,” she said.
Caroline Mutsago, a grassroots organizer for Church and Society, said the workshop was crafted last year.
“Throughout the years, the country had witnessed politically-motivated violence during elections, and we needed a coordinated effort to promote peace towards the elections and the post-election period.”
“As The United Methodist Church, we wanted to put a peace initiative in our communities. The church is well-positioned since pastors are well-respected people in their communities. We wanted to use that perception to change behavior,” said Mutsago.
The social principles of the church state that we are supposed to work towards peace and peacemaking, she said.
The workshop on the eve of the country’s elections was the result of collective efforts by the church’s Ministry with Women, Children and Youth, the General Board of Church and Society whose Assistant General Secretary for Education Leadership formation, Neal Christie, assisted with the content presented, and ACT Alliance which donated wristbands with message to promote peaceful elections.