Stone bridge ZimbabweDear friends,
Zimbabwe achieved its independence in 1980. Violence during the struggle for liberation and post-independence conflicts left many communities and individuals traumatized. Following the 2008 elections and economic crisis church leaders formed the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) in 2009 with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe Bishop-emeritus Dr. Ambrose Moyo as executive director.
Initially the ECLF focused on working with member churches but this soon extended to local communities and the adoption of the slogan “church and community walking together for peace.”
The ECLF peace-building program includes training in mediation, communication, conflict resolution and prevention, healing and reconciliation. The ECLF reports that through this program individuals, families, members of different political parties and communities have been reconciled and are now working together on community development and livelihood projects.
The ECLF has introduced its program into all ten provinces and several districts and wards training some 300 local peace facilitators.
Earlier this month the ECLF in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted a stakeholders’ forum with the theme “Consolidating and Deepening of Community Building Processes” near Masvingo in central Zimbabwe. I was privileged to attend the meeting on behalf of the ELCA Global Mission.
The program included field visits to meet with several Local Peace Committees (LPCs). Participants travelled together to Zaka District and started the visit with a courtesy call to the local government office.
In Zaka District poverty, political intolerance and religious differences had resulted in conflicts and tensions in homes and communities. In 2015 a series of ECLF peacebuilding workshops were held in the area. Local leaders and community members who completed the training formed Local Peace Committees in each village. As a result of the training, members of one community began to work together to build a stone bridge over a stream that flooded often after heavy rains. One woman showed the blisters on her hands and said “these are wounds of peace.” Other LPC members said: It does not matter that we belong to different political parties or churches, peace brings development. This bridge connects us and is for our children and grandchildren. ECLF peace training brought reconciliation and removed negative perceptions, grudges and conflicts. We could not see each other as brothers and sisters. When we found peace, we started to work together. We were transformed. There are other projects we hope to accomplish together now as well.
There is so much that we can learn from the work of the ECLF in Zimbabwe. One important lesson is that churches and communities need to work together if the call for peace, healing, justice and reconciliation is to be credible and effective.
Thank you for your prayers, support and participation in God’s mission locally and globally.
Yours faithfully,
Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, ELCA Global Mission Regional Representative, Southern Africa
Johannesburg, June 12, 2017