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Our Way Forward


 Our Way Forward

Pastoral Statement Issued by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference

28 November 1982

I. Introduction


At Christmas we celebrate God's coming amongst us and bringing us his love, peace and justice. And so, as we approach the fourth year of our Independence in Zimbabwe, we the Catholic Bishops, feel it opportune at this Christmas time to make some comments on the present state of affairs in our land. We wish at the outset to express our gratitude for the ending of the brutal war which led to Independence, and for the ushering in of a new, more just, political and social order.


We highly commend all those measures, undertaken since Independence, to promote a just order in Zimbabwe.


We praise, for example, the following measures:

o the great efforts made to remove unjust discrimination based on race, tribe, sex or creed;

o the attempt to establish a more equitable distribution of wealth and land, so that all may participate in developing the land and share more fairly in the fruits thereof;

o the promotion of basic rights, such as that of, health, by initiating a free health scheme, and of education, by building new schools and providing free schooling at primary level;

o the raising of the minimum wage and promulgation of new labour regulations, so that workers may receive a fair wage and participate more effectively in their work.


We commend too, the emphasis being placed on such values as co-operation, self-reliance, hard work, sharing and brotherhood, as an attempt to unite citizens in the common task of building up our country. In particular, we strongly support the stress being placed on forgiveness and reconciliation. These thoroughly Christian virtues' are the only way to heal the wounds of past hatreds and rivalries, and to foster a spirit of peace, love and brotherhood in Zimbabwe.


All the above-mentioned measures are highly praise-worthy achievements and correspond directly with Christian social teaching. We would like to elucidate a little further on these matters from the Christian point of view.



II. The Christian Social Vision


The Christian believes that through Christ he enters into a life-giving relationship with God. Christ came to bring all men fullness of life,[1] and to free them from those bonds which impede that full life. Thus Christ offers to each individual a spiritual freedom which liberates him from greed and egoism, and all the other shackles which close him in on himself and hold him back from a relationship of love with God, others and himself. It is only when we enjoy such a relationship and receive the life, love and strength which Christ brings, that we can be truly free and fulfilled.


But this individual freedom implies too a social dimension, for it must be rooted in the wider context of the 'Kingdom of God'. Christ preached and inaugurated a Kingdom[2] in which men would live in love, justice, peace and freedom, and thus attain fullness of life. The Christian by his love and dedication must work for the promotion of this Kingdom.[3]


Christian love, therefore, involves a necessary social aspect. That is to say, it must incarnate itself in the concrete socio-political situation, and work towards producing the conditions and structures which make the love and brotherhood of the Gospel possible. Christian love must thus move beyond that kind of charity which only seeks to comfort the suffering person but leaves him in his misery and does nothing to liberate him from the causes of his suffering. Bringing about the Kingdom of God implies removing oppression and injustice both by trying to change men's hardened hearts, and also by trying to change the institutionalised socio-political structures within which such injustice is enshrined.[4]


Apart from liberating men from sin and oppression, the Kingdom also implies the establishment of a free and just society. Such a society will promote the good of all its citizens, regardless of race, tribe or creed, and ensure a just distribution of land and wealth. It will enable people to live together as brothers and sisters, motivated by a spirit of co-operation and sharing, rather than by rampant individualism and greed, and help them to work together and be involved together in the government and development of their land.[5]


In addition to this communal aspect, the Christian also lays great stress on the value and dignity of the individual. He is a person created and loved by God and redeemed by Christ to receive fullness of life, and thus is of great worth.[6] He cannot be taken as an anonymous and dispensable cog in some amorphous collective State machine. Hence the importance placed by Catholic social teaching on human rights and freedoms as the means by which the individual can fulfil his human potential.


The Church teaches that the upholding of human rights is an essential element of any just, democratic and progressive society.[7] We have frequently made the same point in our previous pastoral letters.[8] Such rights include the right to life, the right to security and shelter, the right to physical and moral integrity, the right to education, the right to work and a just remuneration, the right to participate in government, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and of religion and worship. Finally, the individual has the right to protection by, and recourse to, the law. As Pope John XXIII says: 'The human person is also entitled to a juridical protection of his rights, a protection that should be efficacious, impartial and in conformity with true norms of justice.[9] Even in security situations, there can be no justification for any member of the security forces to be indemnified in advance for any unlawful act committed against any innocent or even suspected person. To indemnify such acts in advance certainly encourages and condones injustice and the violent denial of human rights.


There is, therefore, within the Christian vision, a two-pronged approach to society. Consideration must be taken of the collective or communitarian nature of society, but also of the individual within that collective. The collective must not swamp or neutralise the importance of the individual, whilst the individual must see his rights in the context of his social responsibilities towards others, who also have their own rights. Rights imply corresponding duties in the promotion of the common good, and development of a just society.[10]



III. The State


It is the God-given duty of the State to represent the interests of the people and to provide the necessary social, political, and economic structures and services to promote the common good of the society as a whole and to protect the rights of the individual.[11]


In organising the economy, the needs and interests of the people are sovereign. As Vatican II puts it: 'Man is the source, the centre and purpose of all socio-economic life.'[12] And Pope John Paul 11 has recently stressed 'the primacy of the person over things and of human labour over capital.[13]


Catholic social teaching steers a middle course between two extremes. On the one hand it is unacceptable to permit an unbridled capitalist laissez-faire approach, whereby the economy is swayed merely by market forces, and all control and ownership of the means of production are in the hands of a small, select class of rich people. Such a system, motivated as it is by greed and the desire for profit, has been condemned in innumerable encyclicals and pastorals, because it results in the exploitation and oppression of the majority by a small minority, and leads to a grossly unjust distribution of land and wealth.[14]Catholic teaching calls for a just distribution of land and wealth for these are to be used for the benefit of all.[15]Where land is unused or misused in selfish ways, the State might find it necessary to expropriate it for the common good.[16]The Church advocates also the socialisation of certain means of production as a way to ensure the dignity and involvement of the worker in his work, and to avoid the exploitation and alienation attending unbridled capitalism.[17]


On the other hand, one needs to guard against the opposite extreme whereby the State system consists of a centralised extreme bureaucracy run and controlled by a few top officials who are out of touch with the will of the people, but who always claim to act in the name of the people. This, coupled with the total State ownership and control of the means of production, simply substitutes a form of State capitalism for individual capitalism. Here again, the workers and peasants are denied genuine control, participation, and a stake in the means of production. Their lives and work are controlled and determined for them by an impersonal State, which merely acts in their name but not in their true interests. They are subject to the same alienation and exploitation as in capitalism.[18]


The State must therefore provide the democratic structures which afford the workers and peasants a genuine' stake and participation in their work and collective and co- operative enterprises, as well as giving them a voice in the running of the country as a whole.[19]Such a system takes cognisance of the dignity and rights of the individual as well as fostering the common good of society as a whole.


The effective operation of such an economic and social system demands that its members be motivated by the Christian virtue of love, sharing, co-operation and collaboration, and not by individual greed and the desire for profit and material luxury and extravagance. [20]In a newly independent country like Zimbabwe, where economic barriers are being lifted and new opportunities and wealth are more readily available to a large percentage of the population, the individual pursuit of money and luxury, rather than concern for the common good, becomes a serious danger. It is highly important, therefore, that State officials set an example to the country in this regard and live by the above virtues which they preach. All material ostentation and wasteful luxury, as well as corruption and nepotism, should be rigorously avoided.


In like manner, the truly democratic nature of the system should demonstrate that the State represents the will of the people and is there to serve all its citizens, rather than serve itself or any dominating political party. A strident triumphalistic attitude by the State or leading political party can easily lead to an intolerance and intimidation of minority groups and a disregard of their true interests. It also negates the policy of reconciliation by which the State endeavours to incorporate all within its fold and to treat with equal seriousness the interests of all its members.


Here we would like to lay particular stress on the importance of reconciliation in our land. In a prolonged war, feelings of hatred, bitterness and hostility are aroused and the desire for revenge is strong. It is essential for the peace and prosperity of our land, and for the happiness of our citizens, that these feelings be forgotten and former enemies be forgiven. The State bears a heavy responsibility to foster such unity and reconciliation. Her laws, directives and public announcements should be aimed to this end, and anything which provokes and enflames past hatreds should be avoided.


All other groups, organisations and individuals in our country share a like responsibility to promote and consolidate such reconciliation. In this regard the Church has an especially important role to play. For she is the representative of Christ who gave his life to reconcile men to God and to one another. St Paul tells us that Christ breaks the barriers and divisions between men.[21] He heals the wounds of enmity and hatred and unites all men. In Christ we are all one and therefore brothers and sisters of one another.


It is the Church's task not only to preach this message but also to make it a living reality.



IV. The Church


The Church is not simply an institution but is essentially the people of God.[22]The people are united together as one by Christ, and they live out their Christian belief in community by prayer and by giving active witness to the Christian virtues of love, co- operation, sharing, justice and peace.[23] Hence the great emphasis in the Church today on the formation of strong, basic Christian communities, which act as a witness to the reality of Christ in our midst and as a liberating and transforming power in the community and society at large. [24]In this year of national transformation such Christian groups have a vital role to play in developing and transforming our society to one of true justice, peace and prosperity.


It is the role of the official Church, through her hierarchy and clergy and church structures, to lead and animate the people of God in their mission to build up the Kingdom of God and to bring that fullness of life which comes from Christ. This task clearly involves the Church in social commitment at various levels of operation.


Firstly, on the level of development, the Church, true to the Gospel message of love and liberation,[25] continues to work towards improving the lives of the people by serving them in the areas of education, health, social services and so on. Most important, she assists them to help themselves and to be self-reliant, for this is an essential condition for true human growth and development.[26]In all these fields the Church has a proud record in this country.


Secondly, on the level of witness and in her communities, institutions and official hierarchical structures, the Church, by her example, leads and inspires the people to construct a just and peaceful society. A Church which preaches the Christian values of love and service should be the first to live out these virtues. Hence she must by her works and simple life-style identify and be with the people.


Thus in keeping with Christ's love for the poor, she becomes the Church of the poor, caring for, and loving them. [27]By her life and witness she actively protests against the social evils of material greed, extravagance and ostentation, of corruption and injustice, of exploitation and oppression.


Thirdly, on the wider social and political level, the Church in her commitment to justice and liberation positively works for establishment of just political, social and economic structures, which alone make true justice possible. By the same token it follows that, as she has so boldly done in the past in. this country, she opposes and openly protests against those institutions, structures and measures which are oppressive and discriminatory, and which prevent the establishment of a just society.[28]


Whilst individual Christians, in the pursuit of their Christian vocation to build up a just society will engage in direct political activity at all levels, including of course, party level, the Church herself is not committed to any one political party but co-operates with every political and social movement which fosters genuine justice.[29] Thus where the Government is a truly just and democratic one, faithfully representing the people and serving their interests, the Church will actively work with such a Government whilst not being identified with it or with the political party constituting that Government.


Finally, the Church in her commitment to social justice and transformation of the country, acts from her own specific Christian vision of man and society. Christians are motivated by their belief in God and Christ as the origin and perfector of life, and by their lively experience of God in their hearts. An important aspect of the Church's mission, therefore, is teaching and preaching the Gospel message, helping her people to live genuine Christian lives based on love, and providing them with opportunities for prayer and worship of the God in whom they believe and whom they experience in their lives. In this regard, particularly in our new Zimbabwe, the essential teaching and liturgy must be expressed in the culture of our people so that the Church may be a truly Zimbabwean Church. In this way the Church puts into practice Pope Paul VI's counsel that 'the African who becomes a Christian does not disown himself, but takes up the age-old values of tradition "in spirit and truth."[30]





What we have said of the Christian with regard to social involvement applies to all citizens. Each citizen should actively be involved in building up his community and country. It is not right that citizens adopt an attitude of dependence on the State, expecting it to provide everything, whilst they stand back and look on passively. Citizens must actively participate in the nation building venture and this presumes an attitude of hard work, concern for others and pride in the nation. Thus anti-social behaviour, such as robbing and killing, and generally causing social disruption, is to be strongly condemned. It destroys that peace which is the essential foundation of a just and happy society.


On the matter of pride in the nation, all citizens should display a healthy patriotism. In this regard Pope Pius XI comments that Christians, by virtue of their social commitment, should be exemplary in their nation-building activities and should be the first to exhibit a deep pride, commitment and true patriotic love for their fatherland. [31]


Crucial in this nation-building process is the citizen's attitude to work. In the Christian tradition work has both an individual and social value. By it the individual establishes his worth and dignity and finds personal fulfilment.


As Pope John Paul II says: "Work is a good thing for man- a good thing for his humanity - 'because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes "more a human being." [32]


But work involves too, an important social function. The worker does not only work for himself but he works for, and with others. Thus he should have a stake and involvement in the means of production, for this enables him not only to find his own personal fulfilment, but it also binds him in a bond of brotherhood to his fellow-workers.


He sees them not as rivals pitted against each other in a battle of individual competition, but as fellow workers engaged in a common co-operative enterprise. Hence the Church encourages joint worker ownership and co-operative enterprises. Pope John Paul II states: 'In the light of the above, the many proposals put forward by experts in Catholic Social teaching and by the highest Magisterium of the Church take on a special significance: proposals for joint ownership of the means of work, sharing by the workers in the management and/or profits of business, so-called shareholding by labour, etc.[33]


Work also bears a wider social significance for it is the means by which the community and nation develop, and the common good is achieved. The worker therefore carries a heavy social responsibility. By lazy, wasteful and unreliable behaviour, he shirks this responsibility and adversely affects the whole society. Likewise, when considering his own interests and rights at work, he must view them in the light of his social responsibilities. Thus, for example, workers working for employers need to combine in unions and committees to enable them to participate and be involved in their work and to ensure just conditions at work. [34]Where conditions are manifestly unjust and exploitative they might need to resort to action, after having exhausted all other peaceful channels for remedying the injustice. But any worker action must always be measured against the social function of work in the economy of the country as a whole.


Since the majority of our people live on land, the importance of agricultural work is obvious. It too, bears both an individual and social significance. Agricultural work has a special dignity and value attached to it, expressing as it does, man's unity with nature and his participation in the creative processes of nature, which is God's gift to man.[35] It is therefore quite wrong to regard working with one's hands as lowly or degrading work.


In its social dimension, agricultural work enjoys a particularly important place in the community and nation, for it provides the food for the country. It offers too, a strong opportunity for community building. Sharing and working together on the land represents a highly esteemed value both in African culture and in the Christian faith which stresses love and togetherness.


Finally, a word to employers: they must take the Gospel message to heart and view workers not as impersonal tools but as fellow human beings engaged in a common community and nation building enterprise. The employer may not use his worker simply as a means of squeezing out maximum profits, thereby depersonalising" him and oppressing him by making him little more than a machine. The remuneration for his work should be such as to enable him to live a fully human life.[36]


Again, remembering that work is a creative activity in which the worker develops himself as a person and achieves his dignity and personal fulfilment, working conditions should foster such dignity and fulfilment. All too often, conditions at work are degrading and totally disregard the human potential of the person.[37] Included in this demand that work be something personally fulfilling is the condition that the worker be able actively to share and participate in the work operation. He should be given a personal stake and involvement in his work, so that he may take a just pride in it. To treat the worker simply  as an impersonal producer is to dehumanise him and alienate him from his work.[38]



VI. Conclusion


At Christmas we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ, of God made man for us. Christ came to bring us new life, to enable us, if we will, to share in his divine life just as he came to share our human life with us. This new life, brought to us by Christ, is able to change men and society fundamentally. It is able to remove sinfulness and selfishness and to restore his life in us, so that God, in whose image we are made, may see His Son in us and all of us in His Son. In this year of 'National Transformation' we pray that all who are Christians and citizens of this country may be faithful to the love and justice demanded by Christ, so that we may move together on our way forward to build up a new, just, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe.


+ Patrick Chakaipa,

Archbishop of Harare

+ Henry Karlen, CMM,

Bishop of Bulawayo

+ Tobias Chiginya,

Bishop of Gweru

+ Alexio Muchabaiwa,

Bishop of Mutare

+ Ignatius Prieto, SMI,

Bishop of Hwange

+ Helmut Reckter, SJ,

Prefect Apostolic of Chinhoyi

+ Patrick Mutume,

Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare






[1]John 10:10.

[2] Mk. 1:15; Lk. 11:17.

[3] Lk. 9:2-6.

[4] Medellin, Justice, 3.

[5] Gaudium et Spes, 24 and 30.

[6] Populorum Progressio: 14-15. Puebla: 475.

[7] Pacem in Terris: 11-27.

[8] e.g. "The Road to Peace": 5-10.

[9] Pacem in Terris: 27.

[10] Pacem in Terris: 28-33.

[11] Pacem in Terris: 46.

[12] Gaudium et Spes: 63.

[13] Laborem Exercens: 13.

[14] Populorum Progressio: 26; Mater et Magistra: 69; Octogesima   Adveniens: 5; Laborem Exercens: 14; Medellin - Justice: 10.

[15] Populorum Progressio: 23.

[16] Populorum Progressio: 24.

[17] Laborem Exercens: 14.

[18] Laborem Exercens: 14; Mater et Magistra: 53.

[19] Gaudium et Spes: 68.

[20] Populorum Progressio:18.

[21] Eph. 2:14.

[22] Lumen Gentium: Chap.2.

[23] Acts 2:43-47.

[24] Puebla: 617.

[25] Lk.4:16-22.

[26] Gaudium et Spes: 40-43.

[27] Medellin - Poverty of the Church: 1-3; Puebla: 1134.

[28] Medellin - Justice: 3-5.

[29] Puebla: 521-530.

[30] Message to Africa: 14.

[31] Divini Illius Magistri: 52.

[32] Laborem Exercens: 9.

[33] Laborem Exercens: 14.

[34] Gaudium et Spes: 68; Medellin - Justice: 12.

[35] Mater et Magistra: 144.

[36] Mater et Magistra: 71; Pacem in Terris: 20.

[37] Laborem Exercens: 8.

[38] Mater et Magistra: 91-97.