Zimbabwe is not a ‘Christian nation’

26 Feb, 2017 - 00:02 0 Views
Zimbabwe is not a ‘Christian nation’ Sunday Mail

The Sunday Mail

Shingai Rukwata Ndoro Chiseling the Debris
THIS week, l bring the fact that Zimbabwe is not a Christian nation to the attention of the public representatives.

  1. Nature of the State

Zimbabwe is a secular republic [section 1 of the Constitution of 2013] and a constitutional democracy [section 3(a)]. The body of citizens is based on: 1) common humanity, that is the recognition of the inherent human dignity of all human beings [sections 3f, 48 and 51]; 2) inalienable human rights and freedoms [section 3c and 49]; and 3) the recognition of the equality of all human beings [sections 3f and 56].

  1. Freedom of thought and conscience

Section 60 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of thought and conscience and the profession of religious views or lack of them. Every person has the right to choose freely his or her position toward religion, has the right to profess a desired religious view or not to profess any religious view, to engage in religious ceremonies individually or collectively with other citizens.

The humanity of other religious persuasions and the non-religious is constitutionally recognised and protected. They don’t have to be apologetic about it nor seek any favour from Christians.

The right of freedom of thought and conscience is subject only to such restrictions which are necessary to ensure: 1) public law and order; 2) public health; and 3) the defense of the reciprocal rights and freedoms of other citizens. This means that all citizens are on the level in respect of rights and responsibilities arising out of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience.

Where there is a conflict between one’s (non)religious convictions and the Constitution and law, the (non)religious person and religious organisation shall abide by the Constitution and law.

While the Constitution of Zimbabwe states “the Almighty God” in the preamble, this should be read as a generic reference to the impersonal life force acknowledged by the cultural, religious and sometimes the non-religious.

It does not give superior status to any particular religion or religious views over others. The term in the preamble does not supersede the bill of rights and all the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

The accurate representation is that Zimbabwe is a secular republic and a constitutional democracy that recognises the multiplicity and diversity of the religious and non-religious of its citizens.

  1. Freedom of assembly and association

Religious organisations are private and voluntary associations recognised under the freedom of assembly and association in terms of section 58. The freedom to associate necessarily includes the freedom to disassociate. Likewise the freedom to assemble includes the freedom not to be part of that group.

Zimbabweans are not forced therefore to be members of any religious organisation.

  1. Relationship between the State and religious organisations

There is a clear demarcation between the pluralistic and diverse public sphere, the private and voluntary religious space to protect religion from State interference and protect individuals who otherwise will not want unwarranted or coercive religious influence.

A pluralist and diverse Zimbabwe is one in which:

1)         There is no attempt to use State power and public resources to advance, promote or impose some kind of a favoured or preferred version of religious affinities, affiliation and practices over others;

2)         People can freely promote and express own religious and non-religious views; and

3)         There is no specific authority, priority or preference to religious affinities or figures, who should be treated just like any other citizen on matters of public interest and common good like any other social community.

The parliament should be religiously neutral so that it does not engage in the promotion of a favoured or preferred religion. Parliament and public institutions should not have Christian prayers and swearing using the Bible.

What do you make of many who engage themselves in syncretism (practicing both Christianity and indigenous spirituality)? What do you make of many who are not practicing Christianity but are familiar about the religion because of the coercive family upbringing and exposure in the public education system?

To say that, “Zimbabwe is a Christian nation” is unconstitutional because Zimbabwe has Christians, non-Christians and the non-religious (humanists, agnostics and atheists) as citizens.

We need to affirm the constitutional position for the benefit of all. Our constitution is very progressive and it robustly protects the voluntary, private and personal space for which any religious affinity, affiliation and practices are part of.

The impersonal life force or cosmic energy that sustains the universe is not humanoid or anthropological. It is not religious in general or Christian in particular!


Feedback: [email protected] or twitter,@shingaiRndoro. A gallery of previous articles is found at www.sundaymail.co.zw/author/shingairukwata

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