In some ways it is strange being in Zimbabwe. Since going onto the US Dollar two years ago life has become quite relaxed, in Harare. The people I stay with seem to be managing OK. Underneath however, there is much anxiety about what will happen next, and the threat of another election later this year has certainly destabilised things. Already intimidation is being reported, some very violent.
I see it as part of my work there simply to encourage and support the Anglican church as much as I can. I also try to encourage various kinds of Catholic teaching and devotion to counteract the other influences which have been changing the face of the Anglican church (hour long sermons for instance preached at top volume with much repetition and not much thinking!). This time we brought out 34 chasubles, and 20 chalices from the CBS. Mike Greene’s party also brought cases full of clergy gear. So our itinerary (with Barnabas and Daniel Humphries) included:
- Mass at Shearly Cripps Sisters convent
- Masses one Sunday at Chiredzi and Triangle when Daniel also talked on the rosary and gave out scores of them;
- Mass at Tongogara Refugee Camp (coram episcopo) and the next day at Chipinge itself with Fr Paul Mudowaya who is a good young priest but needs encouraging;
- Mass at Chimanimani with our host Guy Carey;
- Three days at St Augustine’s with the Sisters, and a Sunday in Mutare when Daniel, Barnabas and I were all preaching and saying mass at different churches;
- Several masses in our hosts’ houses;
- Later on with Mike Greene and on my own we said mass at St David’s Bonda, Kariba, Holy Name Sakubva and Borrowdale
I also took a quiet morning and a quiet day for a group of Harare people and enjoyed a pleasant visit to Peterhouse School and (twice) to the Benedictine brothers.
Anglicans are suffering a great deal, particularly in Harare and Manicaland, but all 5 Zimbabwean bishops have received death threats, and Anglicans are perceived to be anti government and can therefore expect to be the objects of intimidation.
In Harare and Manicaland, despite several court orders to the contrary Anglicans are prevented from using most of their church buildings. They have now been told not to come within 200 metres of their churches.
In Manicaland each Sunday people have been arrested and kept in stinking police cells till bailed out. There is a court order on St Augustine’s preventing each side from interfering with visitors to the other side, but that did not stop them preventing me from coming. The police have been told from the very top to pay no attention to these court orders. It is very important that we pray for the safety of our Anglican brothers and sisters – particularly for Bishops Julius and Chad, and for those like Luke Chigwanda, Celia Chinguo and others in the leadership who are particularly vulnerable.
One needs also to add that worshiping with these Anglicans is a wonderful experience: to the normal verve of African worship is added the excitement of suffering for Christ. Even the few little groups of elderly white congregations have a new spirit to them, but they need as much support as we can give them.
The news on this is mostly good:
1. Tariro House in Harare. When I first went there I found 18 young people in residence, which was definitely a squeeze. Some of these were home for the holidays. Normally there are about 14. The house mother, Florence is excellent but gets over stressed. We have now employed a cook and a part time social worker who is also excellent and doing a lot of really good work helping the kids look at their back grounds and beginning to deal with the normal teenage problems of getting into life. Most of the children have done quite well in school. One boy sadly failed all his O levels. Sometimes it works to get them private tuition, but this is expensive. We keep looking for ways of helping our less able children.
2. There is also an unofficial house which Florence also runs in Dzivarisekwa which we support. We would like to do this properly but lack the finance. We also have another 10 young people living in Highfield whom we support. All in all we are responsible for about 40 in Harare.
3. At St Augustine’s there are another 18 children living with relatives. Met with all of them and we had a very jolly sing song. Most of them seem to be doing well in school, but there are two or three who are not ( and two or three others at the children’s home). Ideally we should try and open a Tariro house in Mutare which would focus on teaching these youngsters to make a living growing vegetables (particularly ones other people don’t grow) and working in the little jobs that turn up. This would need very good supervision, and more money which we don’t have, so the idea remains on ice.
4. In Chipinge we have another four children, living with relatives but all deprived of one or both parents. Fr Mudowaya looks after them and I provided the money for school fees, school uniforms and books. I was struck by how thin and badly dressed these children were. Also as part of the Chipinge set up we help the pastor at Tongogara with money to teach children, supplementing the rather poor efforts of the local primary school.
5. I think we support about 70 children which is of course a drop in the ocean, and much of the support we give is inadequate to their needs but it is great being able to do it. Amazingly the money for this keeps coming in. It always seems to cost about twice what I budget, but like the widow’s oil the pot never seems to run dry. They are super kids and enormous fun to be with. it is a great privilege to be able to do this work.
Nicolas CR 05/03/11