In Zimbabwe a Bishop Stands up to a Dictator

By Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 26, 2007


It is always fascinating when a religious leader, frustrated by the suffering of his flock, decides to stand up --- even at the risk of losing his own life. This happened last week in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Pius Ncube of the Southern Belawayo diocese has vowed to participate in an anti-government protest, even if it means his life. This phenomenon should not be so intriguing, but it is. Why, because it happens so rarely in modern Christendom.

It is written in the Holy Bible, “For what shall it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” This comes from the Book of Matthew 16:26. According to my observations in studying the realities of our times, many Christian leaders fail to live up to this biblical doctrine; instead, many seem concerned about preserving their social statuses and personal safety. This is a clear contradiction to biblical teachings.

I recently wrote to a friend: “Religion cannot be practiced in a vacuum; it is a product of society. It is practiced in an interactive and dynamic environment. It is therefore wrong to advise religious leaders to stay out of political conflicts because the Church didn’t cause those conflicts in the first place. If a political leader is waging an insane war against a religious leader’s flock, how is it logical to stay silent and uninvolved? Religious leaders have a responsibility and a duty to protect their flocks, even it means risking the angst or furor of dictators.”

I congratulate Archbishop Pius Ncube for taking this courageous stand. It is only the right thing to do and I hope other prelates and men and women of the cloth will follow his bold and courageous commitment to fight in this noble revolution --- a revolution against dictatorship. It is only through that spiritual commitment that the people of Zimbabwe will gather the strength to fight for themselves. The masses need leaders and this is no time for the Church to remain silent and inactive.

About five years ago, during a very tense period of our last dictatorship under Charles Taylor, I wrote an article on the same topic. I was quite a bit dismayed and disappointed that most of our religious leaders stood idly by as Charles Taylor terrorized their flock. That article,, was followed by another article, after a fellow citizen, Mr. George Werner, wrote this rebuttal to the first,

I stand by what I wrote then and am convinced that the clergy has a responsibility to intervene in social crises. Zimbabwe is a very sad case because of the roots of the struggles in that country against racial supremacy. It is an understatement to say, we are disappointed in the rule of President Robert Mugabe. He was once an honorable member of the vanguard against an unpopular, racist regime. Now, where has his sense of decency gone? Has he gone from being a principled freedom fighter to becoming a rogue and dictator? The answer is apparent.

When we were growing up, the names Robert Mugabe, Abel Muzerewa, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Chief Jeremiah Chirau, Rev. Cannan Banana and other freedom fighters like them inspired awe in us. Listening to their stories on BBC and VOA was the beginning of my political education. They were fighting the good fight and Ian Smith, backed by the apartheid regime of South Africa, was simply abominable. I guess those days were simpler times: It was easy to discern the good and the evil. Since then, Robert Mugabe, Comrade Bob as he was affectionately known, has blurred the lines. When and why did a renowned and revered freedom fighter become a dictator?

Those of us who had come of age by the time of Zimbabwe’s independence will always remember the jubilation and fanfare accompanying the ceremonies. One of the highlights of the festivities was a concert by the legendary Bob Marley, the other Comrade Bob. Who can ever forget the lyrics to one of his popular songs, “War”, inspired by a speech given by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia?

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class citizens and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”

Now the people of Zimbabwe are not fighting against a so-called superior race. The majority black people of Zimbabwe do not live in subjugation to the fair skinned blue eyed race. The war against racial superiority was won when Zimbabwe secured its freedom and joined the international community of nations. Since then a new war has begun. This new war pits the former leader of the freedom movement against his former foot soldiers. He is no longer a principled freedom fighter. He has become a pariah, a paranoid, senile dictator unwilling to accept the principles of freedom and democracy for which he fought for so long.

The good people of Zimbabwe must not stand idly by as this cancer destroys the entire country. Comrade Bob Mugabe has done enough harm. It is now time to stand up to him and say, “Enough is enough.” It is in this vein that Archbishop Pius Ncube’s recent announcement becomes significant. His recent public vow to stand up to the dictatorship may just be symbolic; he needs other prelates and other significant religious leaders to take up the same cause simultaneously. Most importantly, he needs the masses, the ordinary people of Zimbabwe to stand with him in opposition to this dictatorship.

The message couldn’t be clearer: “It’s time for Comrade Bob to exit. He has outlived his usefulness to the people and the cause. Zimbabwe deserves better. Again, I congratulate Archbishop Pius Ncube and challenge other religious leaders of Zimbabwe and that region to join forces in leading the masses. The masses are your flock, to ignore them now for your own personal well-being is an unconscionable crime against them. Remember, you men and women of the cloth, it shall profit you nothing to gain the world while you lose your souls.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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