God's Politics

God's Politics

Nontando Hadebe: Where is Christ in Zimbabwe’s Crisis?

The crisis in Zimbabwe has become the crisis of the church. How can we, as Christians and Zimbabweans, be the church in this context? When the apostle Paul describes the church in 1 Corinthians 12, he uses the metaphor of the body in order to capture the relatedness, interdependence, and diversity of the church. I want to pick up just two aspects of Paul’s description of the church in my discussion on the current role of the church in Zimbabwe. The two verses I want to focus on are verse 17 (“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”) and verse 26 (“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”).


In verse 17 Paul recognizes the different roles and ministries within the church that compliment each other, just as the different parts of the body. The prophetic voice represents the “mouth” of the church, the naming of injustice, articulating the issues and pointing out a vision of justice that is informed by faith in a just and liberating God. The prophetic voice of the church is present in Zimbabwe. There is an emergence of a distinctive prophetic voice that is breaking denominational divisions. An example of an emerging prophetic voice is the newly formed Christian Alliance. This is how they define themselves and their mission in Zimbabwe at this time – I will quote directly from their founding statement.


The Christian Alliance is an organized network of Christian leaders and organizations who felt called by God to be instrumental in resolving the crisis in the country peacefully and permanently so that Zimbabweans can again live in freedom, peace and prosperity. It was born as a result of pressure from Zimbabweans who had become disillusioned on issues of corruption and human rights abuses by the government, the security forces and the militias.

The CA was officially launched at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Bulawayo on February 3, 2006. Over 200 pastors, priests and church leaders from various churches and denominations attended the colorful all day event marked by singing, praying and preaching. They came from across the country as far as Mutare and Victoria Falls.


Lawyer and church pastor, Reverend Lucky Moyo, one of the organizers of CA said about its work, “All dialogue will be pursued following Christian principles of non-violence and ethical debate. The war ethos prevailing in Zimbabwe must be broken. We are not going to war; neither do we expect to be attacked. This is simply a platform to engage in meaningful discussion for the greater good of all Zimbabweans.”

There are other initiatives, but this one is of particular interest because of its Christian ethos and representation across denominations.

The other equally essential ministry of the church is the pastoral role, the “walking with” people in great pain and suffering, instilling hope and courage for the harsh realities of everyday life. The political crisis affects the day-to-day life of ordinary Zimbabweans. Examples include the ongoing stress of making ends meet in the context of inflation of over 1700 percent and the failure to pay for the basics of life such as education, foods, health and the ongoing devastation of HIV & AIDS. The pastoral work in this context can best be illustrated by the narrative in Daniel 3 about the three Hebrew young men who were thrown into the fire for disobeying the orders of the king. The text I want to focus on is verse 25: He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”


The fire represents the harsh realities of life, and pastoral care is mediating the presence of God in the midst of suffering so that people are not destroyed by the situation. This ministry is carried out faithfully by pastors and lay people as they encourage, pray, preach, and be present to others. The church in Zimbabwe is growing, and many people are under the pastoral care of pastors. Their pastoral work is as essential as the prophetic voice, because a country is as strong as the soul and character of its people.

The challenge is to keep the prophetic and pastoral connected. The prophetic needs the pastoral to keep in touch with the experiences and voices of the people. The pastoral needs the prophetic to connect the political to the personal. Together the prophetic and pastoral empower Christians to go beyond survival to participating in creating a new vision for Zimbabwe that we can all be a part of.


The last text I want to look at is 1 Corinthians 12, verse 26a: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” The church in Zimbabwe is part of the world wide church, and if the church in Zimbabwe is suffering, then the whole body of Christ is suffering too. Geography does not separate us; Christ has made us one. Therefore the question is not “What is the church in Zimbabwe doing?” but “What am I – as a member or community of believers in Christ – doing?”

Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.

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Joseph T

posted April 25, 2007 at 5:12 am

It seems to me tat Zimbabwe is facing a situation quite similar to that we in America are facing, one in which the corruption of the powerful is exposed and understood by the people, but democratic structures are not healthy enough to swiftly and decisively confront and exorcise that corruption. I would be very interested to hear what you think about the proper roll of other African national leaders in this crisis, or is this principally a problem the people of Zimbabwe must confront? Does the Cristian Alliance represent a significant popular force? Thank you for sharing with us. May this crisis give birth to new beginning for Zimbabwe, my God’s love and justice combine and prevail.

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Mike Hayes

posted April 25, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Nontando, I hope for a time during my life in which those of us who live in peace and safety and comfort in the west will shift our charitable contributions to more effectively assist those who are “thirsty”, “hungry”, “naked” and those who experience disease and violence beyond what we can even begin to imagine. Peace!

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posted April 25, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Charitable contributions. AKA: laziness and apathy. Let some one else do it. The Apostles went to the world. They didn’t expect comfy Lazy-Boy ism and multi-remote Evangelism. And I hope that this “Christian Alliance” group that is referenced in this blog, is not one and the same with “The Christian Alliance for Progress.” This org is just a socialist shill group of Democrat politics, gay rights, abortion rights and typical leftie political fanaticism, under the cover of Christian-like speech. They’ll never do a thing for the world’s hurting other than to spread western debauchery sugar-coated. Until the evils of this world are accurately defined and exposed once again, BY Christians, there is never going to be an end to male-dominated and Islamic dominated genocidal violence.Why are African and Islamic countries so brutal and violent??? That has to be confronted. Yes, yes, with LOVE. But not the kind of love that preaches out of both sides of its morality mouth.Stop killing; but redefine life, marriage, and the family?That is not Christian. But it certainly is Leftist doctrine. “IF,” we are to be the body of Christ, then let us preach the Gospel uncorrupted TO those that think war is OK AND, that think abominations are civil rights to be OK’d. Unfortunately, the “Progressive” doctrines have little to do with “the faith delivered only once to the saints.” Too much laziness to confront real evil. From debauchery to Islamic genocide, there is just too much cowardice and hypocrisy and anti-Christian politics in Leftist propaganda and in the Leftist dogma. It and they, are not part of the body. You have to fight for peace with honesty and Truth, not capitualting to those that oppose it with painted over words of evil to look like the body of Christ. There is more to Christianity than just words.Ask James. Or, Peter, John, Jude, Luke, or, Paul in so many other letters written to other members of the body of Christ. They leaarned their truth from Christ Jesus and Christians. Let “us” to Zimbabwe . . . and suffer and die for Christ. But remember Leftists, before you make a sound, there are no Starbucks in Zimbabwe.I know, my fellow Evangelical Missionaries (who actually went to Zimbabwe), reported all about what is really happening there. To be a part of the body of Christ, one must join it.

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Bill Samuel

posted April 25, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Thanks for the sensitive commentary, Nontando. It is good to hear of the work of the church in Zimbabwe. As an American, my question is what does it mean practically for the part of the body here to stand with the part of the body in Zimbabwe?

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kevin s.

posted April 25, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Good commentary. It is nice to see someone applying scripture to problems instead of simply tying the world’s problem to fault with the Bush administration. Speaking of which… “It seems to me tat Zimbabwe is facing a situation quite similar to that we in America are facing, one in which the corruption of the powerful is exposed and understood by the people, but democratic structures are not healthy enough to swiftly and decisively confront and exorcise that corruption.” This is a ludicrous statement. The economy of Zimbabwe is destroyed. They lack food and medicine. You have no idea what it is like to live under tyranny. George W. Bush will be gone in less than two years. That’s how our democratic structures are taking care of him. Get a sense of perspective, man.

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posted April 25, 2007 at 5:32 pm

Great post and something that kind of struck me as odd. How is the prophetic voice separated from the people? From my experience it has always been the voice that has fought for the people so how is that it seems so marginalized and not part of the mainstream call for change? p

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posted April 25, 2007 at 5:40 pm

I agree with you Kevin. We Americans tend to throw out the tyranny card a little too often for my taste. Especially when you contrast much of Africa with the political stability in the US. Nontando, I really like what you had to say about the pastoral and the prophetic. I had never thought about it in those terms but I think you are right. Thanks for the great post.

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posted April 25, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Anonymous | 04.25.07 – 7:35 am (We know who you are!))Charitable contributions. AKA: laziness and apathy. Let some one else do it.This progressive/liberal Christian is working on a masters in public health so I can return (yes, I ve worked there before) to Africa and work to alleviate suffering. What are you doing?

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