To mark the World Day of Social Justice, the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Zimbabwe has released a statement on Peace, Healing and Reconciliation.
Although much of my current research has focused on the island of Ireland, I have also conducted research on religion, reconciliation and reconstruction in Zimbabwe.
Last year I published an article titled, ‘The Catholic Church in Ireland in Transition: Reflections for Zimbabwe,’ in Mukai/Vukani (meaning “Wake up!”), the Jesuit Journal for Theological Reflection in Zimbabwe. This edition (volume 64, April 2013) discussed “The Church in Transition.” With kind permission from the editor, Gift Mambipiri, I reproduced the article on my blog.
Today’s Statement from the CCJP is of course highly relevant in the Zimbabwean context, and it calls on both government and civil society actors to take action. I was especially struck by this statement, which resonates with current debates on the island of Ireland about ‘dealing with the past’:
If we ignore national healing and reconciliation and live as if things are normal, most Zimbabweans will continue to be passive actors whose decisions and survival is guided more by fear and panic than by intelligence and aptitude. But solutions to Zimbabwe’s problems can only be provided by Zimbabweans, especially through discussions and dialogues.
I have reproduced the statement in full below:
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe
Statement to Commemorate Social Justice Day, 20 February 2014
Peace, Healing and Reconciliation: Basis for Social Justice and Sustainable Development
1. As the world commemorates World Day of Social Justice on 20 February 2014, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ), a commission of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), would like to remind the Zimbabwean government and citizens at large that it will be difficult for the nation to move forward without national healing and reconciliation. As the ZCBC notes in their Pastoral Letter National Healing and Reconciliation: God Can Heal the Wounds of the Afflicted (2009): ‘No-one’s heart can be at rest as long as people are haunted by evil memories, never acknowledged and straightened out.’
2. As Zimbabweans, we have hurt each other in many different ways and over long periods of time. In the pre-colonial period, in the colonial era and in the post colonial era where conflicts became complex and deep. Violence has been institutionalised and a culture of impunity has become entrenched in our society. Resulting tension and polarization threaten the existence of any sense of national common good and nationhood. Traumatised and fearful citizens cannot contribute to nation building! As illustrated in A Call to Conscience (2005), a joint Pastoral Letter produced by the Zimbabwe Christian Denominations: ‘… [Zimbabweans] are frozen in a war mode with language and practices of a command structure.’
3. We need to be free of “…the sin which doth so easily beset us…” (Hebrews 12:1): the sickness in our bodies, the fears of the soul and all that keeps us from being the overcoming sons of God. This is what the Bible calls sanctification – the process of cleansing that needs to take place within our spirits, our souls, and our bodies.
4. The Social Justice Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of justice, peace and reconciliation. As CCJPZ, we take this opportunity to appeal to our government to:
- Ensure that the Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe human Rights Commission are appointed in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,
- Ensure that these and other independent Commissions are adequately resourced to enable them to carry out their functions effectively,
- Re-engage with the international community,
- Restore the national economy, particularly the manufacturing sector,
- Restore the public services sector which includes health, education, water, sanitation, transport and energy and
- Restore Zimbabwe’s historical status as the bread basket of the Southern Africa region with guaranteed food security for her people.
5. Through its well established and functional structures that can be used for community entry, CCJPZ continues to create platforms for engagement and discussions and to be in service of peace, healing, reconciliation and development.
6. If we ignore national healing and reconciliation and live as if things are normal, most Zimbabweans will continue to be passive actors whose decisions and survival is guided more by fear and panic than by intelligence and aptitude. But solutions to Zimbabwe’s problems can only be provided by Zimbabweans, especially through discussions and dialogues.
7. The Social Justice Day inspires us to reflect on the importance of social cohesion that arises only if there is social justice. For us as Zimbabweans, inadequate political commitment to national healing and reconciliation is a deprivation of an important form of social justice which is also a base for social development. We need to be united, own the social problems that we have and everybody becoming part of the solution. IF WE REALLY WANT SUSTAINABLE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, LET US WORK FOR JUSTICE!
Inserted by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe: 29-31 Selous Avenue, 2nd Floor, Tel: +263 4 704 415/ 797 163/ 792 693; Fax: +263 4 762 861; Email: email@example.comfirstname.lastname@example.org.