The Sunday Mail
The survival of the world is at stake if religions cannot make peace with each other and unite for a common good, a Muslim philosopher once said.
With religions intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict considering that more than three quarters of the world’s inhabitants are affiliated to a certain religion.
As the nation’s 2018 harmonised elections approach, religions have taken it upon themselves to unite and fight for a common good.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) secretary-general, Reverend Dr Kenneth Mtata, said religion has over the recent times defined its role as the voice of conscience within the political arena.
“Religion is the voice of conscience in politics and diverse as we are it is our role to unite and stand for a common goal. As elections approach, religions should engage in citizen and governance issues,” he said.
Through its “I pray, I vote” campaign, ZCC mobilised its members and the entire citizenry to register and vote in this year’s elections.
The board which falls under the World Council of Churches (WCC) is to receive an international ecumenical election observation team to be led by its mother board.
“As ZCC we went on a world tour to discuss about the recent transition in Zimbabwe and the role that the church assumed during the time which defined a new role for the church at large. We are going to be part of this year’s observation team which will be led by WCC,” said Dr Mtata.
He said the church played a more active role during the 2017 political transition together with civil society organisations under the National People’s Convention banner to deliberate on ways to support the new Government.
“Under the National People’s Convention, ZCC together with other civic organisations we gathered about 4 000 leaders on the day of President Mnangagwa’s inauguration to agree on how we could engage the new government.”
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), a body that consists of more than 120 evangelical churches also launched a drive in 2017 dubbed “#pray, register vote” encouraging Christians to be part of the election process. The campaign came as a complementary effort to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in mobilising and empowering the church to actively participate in this year’s harmonised elections. EFZ secretary-general, Pastor Blessing Makwara, said the campaign was a way of engaging the Christian community into election participation because Christians are the majority of the nation’s population.
“Also noting the disinterest in the past on Christians’ involvement in elections and politics generally, we saw the need to revive the agency of the church as the salt and light of the earth (Zimbabwe) by actively involving engaging in the socio-economic and political life of the nation,” he said.
Pastor Makwara said the campaign has now been amplified to fit into the entire electoral cycle with some of its members also set to be part of this year’s observation team.
He said the campaign has gone on to educate and mobilise the church to vote in their numbers and educate them on the importance of voting.
“We will continue to work until election day to ensure that the numbers that registered to vote indeed come out to vote. Once election dates are announced, we hope Christians will turn out to vote with their faith and their values so that the nation is led by people who fear God, who love justice, righteousness and work for the poor and vulnerable,” he said.
Apart from the Christian community partaking, African Traditional Religion (ATR) is also playing its part unlike in previous elections.
Traditional Medical Practitioners Council chairperson, Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, said the apart from encouraging its members to vote it is also giving spiritual guidance in different provinces and levels respectively.
“People should be aware that in ATR we have a hierarchy of spirits and it is therefore not all spirits that can pass governance messages.
“We have herbalists who heal the sick, their contribution is to mobilise their patients and for themselves to register and vote. This is the gospel we have been preaching since the first biometric voter registration (BVR) blitz,” he said.
Sekuru Chisanyu said there are also honorary spirit mediums who have been working together with chiefs to deliver governance messages.
“The honorary spirit mediums are a higher level of spirits and these have been working with chiefs to deliver important governance messages and this is where most of the messages that chiefs pass on either to the Government or to the public come from.
“These mediums are called ‘masvikiro enyika’ and they are not registered because of their nature and level,” said Sekuru Chisanyu.
He further posited that these work together with the Government’s department for culture and for this year’s elections several recommended rituals have been performed especially for peaceful co-existence of diverse opinions to prevail.
The Muslim community is also not left out.
The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe has mobilized thousands of its members to vote in this year’s harmonised elections.
Council President Sheikh Ishmail Duwa applauded the government for allowing the Muslims to vote which is a way of taking part in the election process.
“We appealed to the government for our people ‘aliens’ to be allowed to vote and we are glad to say the procedure that we recommended of them went well and as it is we have registered 500 000 of our members.
“This time we have been active in elections preparations through preaching to our people, mobilising them to register and vote in numbers despite being a minority religion because our voice matters,” he said.
Duwa said the 2017 High Court ruling which made naturalised citizens legible to participate in national elections boosted their confidence and made the community identify its role in the election process.
“In the past we were not very sure of what role we should play in issues of governance but this time around we have been able to identify our role. We will continue to play our part to achieve and free, fair and peaceful election,” he said.