CHURCH leaders have been urged to be apolitical to avoid fanning political conflict within the church ahead of the watershed harmonized elections slated for Wednesday.
This was said last week Thursday in Mutare during the signing of the Manicaland Provincial Peace Pledge by various political parties contesting in the much anticipated general elections at hand. The provincial signing ceremonies which were organized countrywide by the Zimbabwe Institute are a follow-up to the National Peace Pledge signing ceremony held in Harare on August 4.
The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denomination (ZHCD) chairman, Bishop Never Muparutsa said Bishops have an important role in peace building and must be apolitical to avoid dividing congregants who are entitled to have diverse political preference.
“Let us not publicize our political preference in approach and in outlook because we represent all congregants regardless of their political association. We are the custodians of peace and harmony as church leaders, so I plead with all church leaders to be neutral when it comes to our public demeanor,” said Bishop Muparutsa.
Adding, “Our congregants support different political parties, so we must be apolitical and accommodate everyone because this is where the conflict starts within the church, when us as church leaders choose a particular party and tow people to follow suit” he said.
ZHCD houses umbrella bodies of churches under the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) and Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches and Zionists in Africa (UDACIZA).
“Today we are spreading the message of peace in Mutare and Manicaland at large to our political leaders for them to commit to the peace pledge at provincial level. Sometimes violence happens at grassroots level which is why we are here.”
Bishop Muparutsa said Zimbabwe is a mature political democracy and as ZHCD, at the highest level of church leadership, they are really spreading the peace message countrywide for all Zimbabweans to vote in peace before, during and post elections.
“In my church for instance, I have five (5) candidates contesting. Two are from one political party and the others are from different political parties, so as a church leader they are all my sheep and I should not sway congregates to follow my personal political preference by making it public which party I support. We must actually embrace such diverse political views and preferences in the church,” said Bishop Muparutsa.
The Anglican Diocese of Manicaland Bishop Erick Ruwona also concurred that Bishops must not put on political hats. “Please our politicians do not force us to take a stance publicly, especially in cases when we have candidates from different political parties contesting, but belonging to the same church,” said Rt Reverend Ruwona.
The sentiments come following several events organised during the pre-elections period where certain political candidates running for presidency were endorsed outright by some leaders of local churches under the banner of the Zimbabwe Indigenous Interdenominational Council of Churches (ZIICC). The leader of Johanne the Fifth of Africa, Archbishop Andyby Makururu is one cleric who has been out-and-out about supporting the ruling party Zanu-PF, often urging his congregates to toe the line.
During the Provincial Peace Pledge signing, senior provincial representatives of political parties from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zanu-PF, United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA) and the Zimbabwe Coalition for Peace and Development (ZCPD) pledged to take the oath seriously and cascade the peace message to their supporters.
In his solidarity remarks the Zimbabwe Republic Police Manicaland Provincial Chaplain Knowledge Mudhungwaza called on all political parties to make the peace pledge a reality and commit to it. “Pledges are serious. In the bible there is the parable of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who died instantly after going against their pledge to God. So, all the political parties here should take such covenants with God seriously or face his wrath,” said the provincial chaplain.