Evangelical pastors call for assistance in recovering Zimbabwe

At meetings in Nairobi this month, a well-known Zimbabwean peace and justice leader called for European and U.S. interests to begin to restore humanitarian aid to his country. The Pastor, well-respected in the public witness of the church of Zimbabwe against the injustices of the Mugabe regime, said anonymously that it is time to ease international pressure on Zimbabwe. The remarks were made during a gathering of national representatives of the Micah Challenge and the Micah Network from around the world.

At a local level, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (www.crwrc.org) provided humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe by participating in a distribution of 10,000 tons of food aid through its partners this past spring. The organization will begin another project in the coming months through Child Care Ministries Zimbabwe. The new program will provide in-school feeding to students in Matabeleland over the next few months.

"It's surprising to hear that there has been significant progress toward a gradual change in government that incorporates a broad base of support, including key elements of the armed forces," says Peter VanderMeulen, social justice director for the Christian Reformed Church and former CRWRC field staff. "Our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe are telling us that prices are smoothing out and a new financial system is running parallel to the central bank."

VanderMeulen says that a number of the faith leaders from Zimbabwe expressed the need to begin to slowly reintegrate the emerging political leadership into the African and global community. "The time for screw-tightening is over," the pastors said. "It is time to selectively turn the program and aid streams back on." The positive observations are welcomed by VanderMeulen and other church leaders.

The Christian Reformed (CRC) denomination's Board of Trustees adopted a Resolution on Zimbabwe in July 2008, expressing "solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and in particular those Christian leaders who ...live the gospel of love in the face of hatred and violence" during post-election unrest.

The CRC, at the request of its Office of Social Justice and CRWRC, participated through the Micah Challenge in a 2008 Pan-African Day of Solidarity for Zimbabwe with the Global Call to action Against Poverty (G-CAP). The effort called for an independent commission to investigate human rights abuses, human rights monitors, reconciliation and dialog, an independent judiciary, and accountability for security forces and law enforcement agencies.

When the Zimbabwe government halted international humanitarian aid for a number of months last year after the June run-off elections, the country was in an economic free-fall. Now a slow restoration of relief channels appears to be opening again.

"The Zimbabwe we heard about last year has become more stabile, VanderMeulen says. "Our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe need the support of the faith community in the developed world right now."