Zimbabwe: "Talk Like Prophets; Be Preachers"

Bishop Tells of Stability Amid Uncertainty

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ROME, MARCH 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- For three decades the fortunes of Zimbabwe have been tied to President Robert Mugabe. A power sharing deal following disputed elections in 2008 had raised hope for the future of the country, but little has changed so far. 

Marie Pauline Meyer for Where God Weeps in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need interviews Bishop Martin Munyanyi of the Gweru Diocese about the situation of Zimbabwe. 

Q: What is the political climate of Zimbabwe at the moment? 

Bishop Munyanyi: I can say that after the political agreement things have improved. The tensions between people have calmed down. People tend to focus on what they are doing, for example, working out a way of promoting national healing, reconciliation and development. 

Q: It seems sometimes that it is not easy for the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe to speak about the political situation in the country. Why is this?

Bishop Munyanyi: We are, as it were, not engaged in politics but we are helping each other to find a solution to our problems together. And even the government at times says, "We need your help. We need your prayers; we all work for the welfare of the people."

Q: Though sometimes political leaders state you should stay with the Word of God, with the Bible and should not interfere with politics. What is your response? 

Bishop Munyanyi: We touch the areas that involve morality. We try to judge whether what is happening is morally good or bad. We discourage what is morally bad and encourage what is good, for example in our pastoral letter; we have emphasized the need for national healing, reconciliation and development. 

Q: What are the reasons for this? 

Bishop Munyanyi: We want reconciliation for the sake of development and peace. What we are saying, if we want peace we should work for justice, not in terms of “tooth for a tooth” but justice that always includes forgiveness and reconciliation. This is our teaching.

Q: Can you give examples of what has gone wrong? 

Bishop Munyanyi: We used to have our differences between tribes, which caused suffering on either side. We are saying, let us forgive each other. We were together during the war of independence when we had a common enemy, the white regime. After independence another conflict developed between the Shona and Ndebele tribes. There was terrible fighting and killing. Then there was another armed conflict, which was due to affiliation to various political parties. We are saying again, let us overcome this conflict and be reconciled. 

Q: Are the people ready to overcome these differences? 

Bishop Munyanyi: Some are and some say that this is not the right time because the conflict is still going on, but we are saying all the same that there is no more opportune time than now; it is not like blowing a whistle and saying, "be reconciled," no. It is a process like any family where a husband or wife fight and we ask them to get reconciled but it does not mean that tomorrow they will not be in conflict again. So we are trying to make things right by encouraging this process of reconciliation, which should even include the use of the Sacrament of Penance.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you face in your Diocese of Gweru? 

Bishop Munyanyi: A perennial challenge is how to run the diocese; the finances are hard to come by. People are willing. They have grown in spiritual reliance but do not have the financial means. Mines surround my diocese and those mines are now closed due to the low price of minerals. The people who make up the congregation are mostly unemployed. As a result, they cannot support our projects; they are very willing but have no resources. Even in the rural areas where people are dependent on agriculture, they are often affected by a poor harvest because of the lack of rain during certain seasons. These are the difficulties we face.

Q: What can you give them if not food? 

Bishop Munyanyi: This was my concern as a priest and as a seminarian, but I found out that they have hunger for the Word and the more you give them the Word they go home satisfied and carry on with the Word as their guide. It brings them hope even in moments of suffering and that is why we enjoy peace in the midst of the troubles in our country.

Q: Yet many people, especially the young, leave the country? 

Bishop Munyanyi: Yes many have left the country since 2000, including many professionals. Some are contemplating coming back because of the situation, which is promising but not much.

Q: Did you yourself contemplate leaving? 

Bishop Munyanyi: It never came to my mind because I wanted to be with my people whether “it was raining or not raining”. I always had a passion for my people.

Q: What is your Episcopal motto? 

Bishop Munyanyi: “The Word of God gives us life” is my motto and I would like that all men and women have life, life coming from the preaching of the Word. My favourite Biblical passage is from Numbers 11:25-30, where I would wish everybody to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I would like all to be true to the spirit of God; to “talk like prophets – be preachers”. And this will help all the people of God to get to the Promised Land. With the Word of God being preached by all, it should help all to get to heaven.

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Conducted by Marie Pauline Meyer for “Where God Weeps”, a weekly TV & Radio show produced by Catholic Radio & Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. 

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On the Net: 

www.WhereGodWeeps.org and www.acn-intl.org