By Chenayi Kumuterera
MAY 31, 2018 | HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches organized a march encouraging a united, peaceful, just and prosperous Zimbabwe. Organizers of the march hope to increase understanding and awareness of the church’s role in the secular community with a focus on peaceful elections.
The four districts within the United Methodist Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and other members of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches celebrated Africa Day — May 25 — with a peace march, a public lecture and songs and prayers at the Harare Gardens.
Hundreds of United Methodists and members of other denominations gathered at the Town House in Harare. Escorted by the state police force, participants marched along Julius Nyerere Road to the Harare Gardens. They waved placards that advocated unity and prayed for a peaceful outcome in Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections.
Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold elections in July and for the first time in 16 years, the European Union will oversee those elections. The elections will be first since longtime President Robert Mugabe was ousted in November 2017.
Rugare Kozanai, assistant for governance, policy and research for the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, noted that the peace march complemented the “culture of peaceful initiatives” that preceded his involvement in the council.
The Rev. Kenneth Mtata leads the council’s secretariat. He asked church members to love one another in peace and to thrive on peace throughout the election process. “Every member,” he said, “has to preserve the peace we preach and experience the peace.”
Peace marchers prayed on the roads that lead to the parliament. “The economic decisions,” Mtata said, “must bring peace to Zimbabwe and to the High Court to enforce justice and give way to peace.”
Calling the peace march “a worthy cause,” the Rev John Makaniko, grassroots organizer for social justice ministry for the Board of Church and Society in Zimbabwe, said, “The message was clear for everyone across political divide [to] shun violence and embrace peace.”
He said John Wesley’s three simple rules – do good, do no harm and stay in love with God – have the power to change the world.
Retired Justice Sello Nare, speaking on behalf of the National Peace Reconciliation Commission, said, “Peace begins with me … with you and … with us all.
“Our action in peace [must] be active,” he continued. “The church must bridge the gap for social healing. We are all ambassadors of peace.”
Speaking at St. Timothy Mabvuku United Methodist Church, Onias Munamati said the role of the church during elections is to “pray, educate [about] the importance of peace, seek knowledge, demonstrate peace steadily and advocate for right policies.
“We have Christians within political circles, as elections can be a cause to unite – not to bring division and violence.” He urged the church to identify with Christ and to be transformed.
“Churches should never be silent,” said Mtata, but should preach a gospel of peace and unity and transform society.
Caroline Nyorowai Mutsago, an advocacy and grassroots organizer for Church and Society in Zimbabwe, agreed.
“The church is well positioned to influence and teach about peace in our communities,” Mutsago said. “Church leaders are well respected. Using their position to our advantage will help in changing attitudes, character [and] behaviors and influence peace in communities.”
She reiterated the importance of social media, especially for youth who are easily pressured to perpetrate violence. Mutsago believes social media may help to reduce violence, especially during elections.
Denominational heads joined hands in unity as they prayed together.
Kumuterera is a communicator for the Zimbabwe West Annual Conference in Harare.
This story originally appeared on https://www.umnews.org/en/news/zimbabwe-churches-march-for-peace