30 November 2003
Forty years ago the Holy Father, Pope John Paul XXIII published a great Encyclical, Pacem in Terris. In this letter he prayed and encouraged others to pray for peace. This was very appropriate given the world context in which people were divided against one another. The letter was published two years two years after the Berlin Wall in Germany was created. This wall was symbolic of the ways in which the peoples were divided against one another. This was also the time of the Cuban crisis. The Encyclical was written to give hope for peace in the world.
Divisions between peoples have continued on racial, tribal, gender, class, party-politics, religious and many other lines. In Zimbabwe today we are experiencing the negative effects of some of those divisions. The message of peace in Pacem in Terris which states that the order laid down by God must be observed in order to have peace is still very relevant to us today. As we enter the season of Advent, we yearn for this peace, which Pope John Paul XXIII prayed for in 1963. In his message he reaffirmed the four conditions of peace as truth, justice, love and freedom. Pope John Paul II reflecting on Pacem in Terris as a commemoration of 40 years emphasizes these same four pillars stated by Pope John XXIII. We in Zimbabwe are therefore today reminded of these four pillars on which peace must be founded. Advent is a period of hope, where we prepare ourselves to receive Christ in our midst, and receive the Prince of Peace, who comes to re-establish the dignity of the human person
We, the Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe, speak to you at a time when life I Zimbabwe is at its lowest ebb. The political situation is tense; the economic situation chaotic and the social situation is unbearable for the majority of the people. This situation is undermining human dignity. It is this dignity that is God given from the very moment of creation or conception of man and woman that makes a human being unique (Gen. 1:27). When human dignity is construed to be subordinate to political expediencies or economic imperatives or any other material gain, then it is being violated and the human person degraded. All human beings, regardless of their social status or class have the same worth before the Creator. To violate this principle will not only cause disharmony and injustice, but also militates against the Creator Himself and therefore peace is compromised. Peoples world-over have struggled for the full recognition of their dignity and independence. We also struggled for the same values for the sake of the common good. We must honestly ask ourselves whether we have made the best use of our achievements in the more recent years, especially in view of the fact that the common good takes priority over any individual interests. During this time of Advent, let us take a fresh look at ourselves and refocus and practice that human dignity towards one another in our society which Christ came to restore.
What Pope John XXIII called pillars of peace, are the fundamental requirements needed by human beings to establish peace in society. Without the pillars of peace: truth, justice, love and freedom, peace is unachievable. Understanding and acceptance of the four pillars as foundations for peace in fundamental to the Zimbabwe Society of today. This peace which is a gift from God has become a rare commodity in our Country.
During the season of Advent let us make serious effort to redress these elements which disrupt peace. In our society, children have lost protection, men and women live under exploitative and oppressive circumstances: hunger, disease, mistrust and fear. We therefore call upon those in authority to urgently create the required enabling conditions so that peace, prosperity, and development can be achieved. Christ taught, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called children of God.” (Mt5:9)
Pope John Paul II explains that “Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others.” Truth isa requirement of the human spirit, hence a genuinely peaceful society is built on truth and not lies, and deceit. This is because lies and deceit destroy relationships between human beings. Consequently Pope John Paul Ii says that truth requires not only an acknowledgement of one’s rights but also an acknowledgement of one;s duties towards others. In Zimbabwe today it is now the norm for people to quickly claim their right, but disregard both their duties and responsibilities towards others.
For instance the media must both be reminded and allowed to act professionally and take responsibility for what they say and write. Their duty is to inform truthfully, as well as educate and entertain. That objective has unfortunately been lost in our country at the moment. Inter-relationships of individuals must be characterized by truth so as to build trust and peace.
The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II states that “Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them.” We know that if we want peace we must work for justice. Pope John XXIII highlighted the importance of justice in society in the following words: “Any human society, if it is to be well-ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person, that is his nature in endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed precisely because he is a person, he has rights and obligations, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights and obligations are universal and inviolable so they cannot in any way be surrendered.” (Pacem in Terris, p259). This quotation stresses that justice comes from respecting their intelligence and free will of human beings. While the challenges to peace were experiences when “Peace on Earth” (Pacem in Terris) was written, the world today continues to face the same challenges: Iraq war, Liberia, threat of terrorism, biological weapons, social and economic imbalances.
+Mt. Rev. Pius Alec V. Ncube of Bulawayo
+Rt.Robert C. Ndlovu of Hwange (Vice President)
+Rt. Angel Floro, Bishop of Gokwe
+Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa, of Mutare
+Michael D. Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo (ZCBC President)
+Rt. Rev Helmut Reckter S.J of Chinhoyi
Msgr, Kizito Mhembere, Administrator of Harare
+Rt. Rev Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare