Home » General » Zim Enjoys Unparalleled Religious Liberty

Persecution of Christians in some parts of the world has raised religious liberty into a contemporary global issue. Two weeks ago, the Seventh Day Aentists (SDA) converged in their tens of thousands at the Glamis Stadium to celebrate the religious liberty they enjoy in Zimbabwe. Speakers at the function, including the Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province, Mirriam Chikukwa, underlined the need for cordial inter-religion relations.

The SDA, renowned for their non-participation in politics, could not resist the urge to thank the country’s political leadership for protecting religious liberty.

The head of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) department in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) of the church, Dr Paul Charles thanked the Zimbabwean government for adjusting even the national elections day to accommodate church members who may want to vote or participate in the logistics side of the plebiscite. A few days later, an inter-religious dialogue was held in the country to show gratitude to President Robert Mugabe’s government for the religious freedom prevailing in the country. Zimbabwe is a country of tremendous religious diversity, thus its constitution recognises, guarantees and protects religious liberty. As a result, there are no inter-religious hostilities that obtain in other countries.

It pains me that some Christians take religious liberty in this country for granted. Some bogus religious liberty activists such as Elizabeth Kendal, Canon Conger and Peter Pham try to portray Zimbabwe as a violator of religious liberty. These three saw the hand of ZANU-PF in the leadership dispute within the Anglican Church. zanu-PF and its government have no preferred religion or church. What these critics failed to realise is that, during the peak of the dispute, there were more ZANU-PF ministers in the Gandiya faction than in Kunonga. However, there was very little that these ministers could do because the Anglican is not a religious arm of Zanu PF or government.

In Zimbabwe, it is rather the religion that persecutes the state. Recently, an apostolic sect, led by Madzibaba Ishmael, had the audacity to attack the state security apparatus. Some church leaders like Pius Ncube actually prayed for the death of the head of state while others were willing vassals in the project to dethrone a leader that God appointed (Romans 13v1). That’s how far the excessive religious freedom in Zimbabwe has taken us. As much as religious freedom is a right of every Zimbabwean, there are necessary limits to the exercise of this right. Some church leaders have been taking aantage of the excessive religious liberty in the country to engage in criminal activities. They have been accused of rape, abuse of women and children, theft, self-enrichment and other crimes. The state cannot stand akimbo while the rights of vulnerable people are gravely infringed upon. It’s definitely not persecution if such leaders are called to account for their omissions or commissions and their churches are banned.

Due to religious liberty in this country, two Congolese nationals had the nerve to appeal for government permission to start their Satanism church at Tongogara Refugee Camp last year.

Even when being held at Harare Central Remand Prison while awaiting deportation, they still insisted on practising their faith. When they were arrested, some in the civil society castigated government for violating the Congolese’s universal right to freedom of association.

Surely some people have to visit some countries in North Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to appreciate that Zimbabwe is a land of unparalleled religious freedom. According to the Pew Research Centre, Christians faced oppression in 110 countries in 2012. In the same year, there was a serious deterioration of inter-religious relations with 33 percent of the countries on the globe recording high religious hostilities.

The world’s attention is currently focussed on Nigeria and Sudan, which stand among the countries where there is a lot of religious intolerance.

According to Open Doors, an international organisation that supports persecuted Christians, Nigeria tops the list of countries where Christians face the most violent attacks for their faith. The alarming trend of violence in Nigeria over the past few months highlights the lack of religious freedom. It is reported that there were 2 073 Christian martyrs in Nigeria between November 2012 and March 2014. On April 14, an Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, kidnapped at least 276 girls at a government secondary school in Borno State and forced them to convert to Islam.

Going to school, attending church and identifying oneself as a Christian is a very brave decision in counties like Nigeria. In its mission to drive out Christians from Nigeria, Boko Haram has been targeting churches, blowing up and shooting entire congregants.

Thanks to Government, that is not the case in Zimbabwe.

Recently, Sudan hit the headlines for sentencing Meriam Ibrahim to hang for marrying a Christian and refusing to renounce her own Christian faith. Sudan has a law that prohibits Muslims from converting.

Source : The Herald