Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pray for Zimbabwe

I don’t know how much news there is in the States about Zimbabwe, or how much you pay attention to it even if the situation is on the news, but it has on my heart to write about it.

Zimbabwe is a fairly small country north of South Africa on the eastern side of the continent. It is north of Swaziland, but as you recall, Swaziland is surrounded on three sides by South Africa so Zimbabwe doesn’t border Swaziland. Zimbabwe has been a country in crises for at least a couple of years, but it has gotten much worse. Thousands have fled the country. The Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg (Central Methodist) has been housing thousand of refugees each night since at least 2006. I don’t know all of the political issues. I know that there is virtually no food on the shelves in Zimbabwe and that their currency is essentially worth nothing. They say the government is corrupt and the President is crazy. The current President, Robert Mugabe, is in his 80’s and as is very common, lives a very rich life style. The country had elections about a month ago. I believe they have elections every 10 years. Mugabe has been president for many years, and thought he would automatically get re-elected as he did during the last election. The country has gotten so bad that there were actually two candidates opposing the current President. The day of the election the President made a speech saying he would accept the results of the vote regardless of what they were. As informal results started coming forth, the President and his cabinet became quiet. Then there were complaints about voter tampering by the opposing party (MDC-Movement for Democratic Change) and the need for a possible run off. The results from that election have still not been announced. Now a recount of the vote is underway. The MDC says they won’t abide by the recount because there has been tampering with the original ballots since the vote. There have been many stories of violence towards those that voted for the MDC. It’s been reported that at lest 10 people have been killed and over 3,000 displaced from their homes because the government has destroyed them. This is all reported as being done in an effort to intimidate and punish those who didn’t vote for the current President. The unofficial word on the street is that the current government officials (police, court system, etc.) won’t allow the opposition to win the election because they are afraid of loosing their high paying jobs and being tried on various charges of misconduct and corruption.

Now, a ship from China is trying to bring a shipment of arms to the Zimbabwe government. So far, the ship has been denied to dock in South Africa and Mozambique. It is now trying to get permission to unload the cargo in Angola. The concern from the countries in Southern Africa is that if those weapons get unloaded and shipped to Zimbabwe that there will be wide spread violence and genocide. Everyone seems to be holding their breath. No one is expecting a peaceful and suitable outcome but the weapons will make things much worse. The UN has been approached to help monitor the re-count and elections. The debate in the UN to go to Zimbabwe to oversee the recount and maintain a peaceful outcome is still on-going. Honestly, I doubt the UN will do anything to help especially at this point. As usual, too little is being done too late.

My request is to ask you to pray that you pray that the violence stops and that a peaceful outcome for the good of Zimbabwe is achieved and that the countries in Africa band together to keep the weapons out of Zimbabwe. My second request is that you look closer at your thoughts of the political situation and elections in the US. Take part in the elections. Don’t waste your right to vote. The voter turnout in the United States is pathetic. Too many people take that right for granted, me included. We complain, and rightfully so, about the political back stabbing, messy campaigns and campaign promises that are not kept. However, we have the most democratic and peaceful elections and change of elected officials in the world. We should be proud of that, protect that right and utilize it to its fullest. Voters came out in droves to vote in the Zimbabwean elections. They waited for hours in long lines to vote. The majority of the people voted. I don’t remember the percentage, but it was staggering especially compared to the voter turn out in the US. And yet, their votes aren’t being heard and many voters have already reaped the repercussions of exercising their “right” to vote. IF Zimbabwe accepts a change in government it won’t come peacefully.

A daily one minute prayer vigil has been organized by Christians in Zimbabwe. The request is that all Christians stop what they are doing at 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM or 8:00 PM and spend one minute praying for God to intervene in the affairs of Zimbabwe. These times of course are Zimbabwean time (GMT plus two hours), but your time zone will be just fine. The main point is to pray for the people of Zimbabwe and while you are at it, pray for the US including a word of thanks for the country we are privileged to live in and the rights we all take for granted. Just a short prayer. One minute. Nothing fancy or long. Just pray for these people who are living in such a desperate and hopeless situation.

Prayer is the only answer for Zimbabwe. We, as Christians, forget or don’t really understand the full extent of the power we have available through prayer. Our prayers are the most powerful asset we have. Together we can make a difference.