Christian theological perspectives on political violence in Zimbabwe: the case of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe
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This study seeks to establish the perspectives of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) on political violence in order to understand its theological position on politically motivated violence in Zimbabwe. The UCCZ has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Since the time of its establishment in Zimbabwe in the late 19th century, the UCCZ has been speaking to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in the UCCZ traditions. This study on Christian perspectives on political violence traces the roots of Zimbabwe’s contemporary political violence to the actions of the Rhodesian state and armed forces, to inter-party rivalry between the major nationalist political parties in the 1960s, and to violence that took place during the liberation war in the 1970s. The focus, however, is the UCCZ viewpoint on political violence of post-colonial Zimbabwe. In this regard, the consequences of Renamo banditry activities, Gukurahundi violence, harassment of national political leaders, violent elections, totalitarian tendencies, and inter-party and intra-party violence are assessed in order to obtain the UCCZ’s perspectives on political violence. The thesis interrogates the UCCZ’s viewpoint on state-sponsored violence during the fast-track land reform and elections. The UCCZ standpoint, expressed during the post-2000s polarized society in Zimbabwe, is instructive on the church’s stance on political violence. The consistent theme in the thesis is the church’s response to the trauma and fear of the survivors of political violence and the impunity of the perpetrators in the search for the church’s outlook on political violence. This study seeks to find out how the causes, patterns, dynamics, and consequences of political violence have affected the UCCZ’s theology. The key finding of this thesis is that for the UCCZ political violence is primarily a moral problem, and every moral problem is ultimately theological. The complexity of the Zimbabwean situation defies the neatly worked out moral principles of classical Christian tradition. The findings in this research refute the reviewed literature which is largely centred on Augustine’s Just War Theory. Many UCCZ members have been misled into believing that political parties’ worldviews are stronger than their own Christian worldviews. In fact, there is no longer a strong Christian mind in areas wrecked by political violence. This thesis has demonstrated that the church’s singular failure has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview that governs every area of existence. This Church should understand that God transcends every culture, every power, every social group and every ideal. The thesis identifies a gap in theology and proposes an anti-violence theology emerging from the UCCZ viewpoint on political violence in Zimbabwe. The argument pursued is that it is possible to craft an anti-violence theology in Zimbabwe. The Christian’s duty is not only to build up the Church but also to build a society for the glory of God. There is no doubt that developing a Christian mind is a rewarding and enriching act of discipleship - it brings Christian principles into the area of life and creates a new culture.
violence in early Christian writing
United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe