Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly, PC(USA)
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assemly Mission Council, PC(USA)
We join with World Mission to invite Presbyterians in the United States to accompany our Zimbabwean sisters and brothers in praying for peace in before, during and after the July 31 elections.
Zimbabwe is preparing for national elections on July 31. It will be the first national election since June 2008, when the campaign was marred by a sharp increase in political violence. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) – which includes three of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s partners among its 26 members – has called on all churches in Zimbabwe to dedicate Sunday, July 21, to prayers for peace in the country.
“Today the nation of Zimbabwe is at cross-roads; a decisive moment, commonly called KAIROS in theological terms,” the heads of ZCC churches said in a recent pastoral letter to the nation. “Once again, we reiterate our message of peace and tolerance to all political parties and their leaders as they campaign for votes in the General Elections. Men and women of faith should play a positive role in maintaining sanity in all political processes. We must avoid blood-shed, abductions and other forms of violence that characterized the June 2008 elections. Our prayer is that even those who suffered this trauma will still see the value of voting. Our campaign must instill confidence to people who are living in fear because of memories of the last elections. We also encourage the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to continue to strive for transparency, honesty and excellence so that those who lose the election will not pinpoint to the electoral systems which results in disputed elections. It is our hope and prayer that this election will not result in a controversial outcome that will lead into another negotiated settlement to create a unity government. Let us accept and respect the people’s choices.”
The letter also commended the “determination, commitment and patience shown by the political leaders and the people of Zimbabwe” during the peaceful referendum on May 22, 2013, that overwhelmingly confirmed a proposed new constitution for the country.
“Our collective task as the nation of Zimbabwe, is to make our new constitution a living document that shapes our conduct, guides our actions, and that constantly reminds all of us to cherish freedom, equality, peace, justice, tolerance, prosperity, patriotism and unity in our rich diversity,” the ZCC pastoral letter continued. “May our new-found values of peace, tolerance, respect for human rights and the rule of law enshrined in our new constitution guide us in the lead up to, during and after the coming harmonised elections.”
Unfortunately, early indicators do not bode well for a peaceful poll. Although levels of violence have been relatively low over the past year, Amnesty International reports that there has been a “systematic clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly” in Zimbabwe. While Zimbabwe has invited more than 50 groups to observe the July 31 poll, it has denied observer status to several prominent observer groups such as the Carter Center and the European Union.