What’s the story?
An unfolding situation in Zimbabwe means that President Robert Mugabe’s grip on power has finally weakened. But while the path ahead for the country and its various potential leaders seem uncertain, there are many elements to the crisis, the country and its church that need our prayers.
For decades his name has been synonymous – outside of Africa at least – with dictatorship and clinging to power. Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe and leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, has overseen a period of great instability and led a violent, oppressive regime which has seen many leave the country. There has never seemed to be the slightest chance that he would hand over power.
In mid-November however, it appeared that things had finally shifted. The leaders of the country’s army placed Mugabe under house arrest and, while denying they were staging a military coup, effectively took control of the country. Zanu-PF sacked Mugabe as leader, and demanded he resign as President.
In a bizarre televised statement however, Mugabe appeared to refuse calls to stand down, despite tens of thousands of Zimbabweans taking to the streets in peaceful protest. He and his wife Grace – who was thought to be his choice to finally replace him as leader – were still under house arrest when he delivered the broadcast, which did not include his expected resignation. Instead, Mr Mugabe said that he intended to provide over Zanu-PF’s conference in a few weeks time.
Meanwhile, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking in early November was the catalyst for the military’s move, has been installed as the new leader of Mugabe’s party. At time of writing though, he is set to lead a nation that is perhaps even more unstable than ever.
What have others been saying?
Writing for Christian Today, Claire Hayns gives an insider perspective on the situation as a UK-based chaplain who regularly visits the country, and explains that while Zimbabwe has great potential, right now ordinary people are suffering.
US site Christianity Today have polled Zimbabwean church leaders for their perspective on the power shift taking place in the nation, and republished an open letter from them.
#1 – INTERCESSORY PRAYER
Paul’s repeated message to the early church is to pray – continually (1 Thessalonians 5 v 17), and for ALL people (1 Timothy 2 v 1). He also urges them to pray for the church in other parts of the world (Ephesians 6 v 18), and repeatedly underlines the unity of the ‘saints’ all working together to further God’s Kingdom. As Christians we have a responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters in the church all over the world – especially in those places like Zimbabwe that are suffering tension, hardship and uncertainty. But our job is even bigger than that: the ‘all’ in 1 Timothy 2 is a command to include everyone – both inside and outside the church – in our prayers. We can sometimes fall into the trap of believing our prayers don’t make a difference to major global situations, but Paul and Jesus repeatedly promise that they do. In Matthew 18 v 19, Jesus says: “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
#2 – POWER
The gospels and letters of the New Testament have a lot to say about our interaction with earthly powers. On one hand, Jesus famously tells the people to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22 v 21), and Paul writes that everyone should be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13 v 1). On the other hand, Paul also writes that Jesus’ authority outranks and even ‘disarms’ and ‘puts to open shame’ earthly rulers and powers (Colossians 2 v 15). The church in Zimbabwe is ultimately praying for a peaceful resolution to this situation which results in the return of prosperity to the nation: the kingdom of God breaking out there. God’s power and kingship is greater than that of any earthly leader – but at the same time his followers must balance their commitment to him and his justice with that command to respect earthly authority.
Points for prayer
- Pray for Zimbabwe, that whatever happens in the country over the next few days and weeks will leave it in a better, fairer and more prosperous place.
- Pray for peace in the country, that the military’s involvement will not result in violence or bloodshed, and that there will be no other violent uprisings or protests.
- Pray for the church in Zimbabwe, that it will be united during this time of upheaval and change, and offers a beacon of light and hope to those who feel frightened or unsure about the future.
- Pray for church leaders, that they would use their influence positively, and speak out for truth and justice.
- Pray for the people living in Zimbabwe, that they would have real hope, and not be disappointed.
- Pray for Zimbabweans living in exile around the world, that they would be comforted, and ultimately enabled to return home if they wish.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.