Apostolic, Zion churches forge new paradigm

HARARE - Hundreds of Apostolic and Zionist church members converged at Murove Primary School in Buhera on Monday for a gender-based violence meeting organised by their umbrella body.

Union for Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (Udaciza’s) secretary general Edson Tsvakai said the meeting was part of the roll out phase of the apostolic churches’ three-year plan launched in Harare recently.

“The social status of the majority of us is a sorry one comparing with age mates from other mainstream churches like Catholics, Pentecostals and Protestants,” he said.

“Their children are in all the glamorous places.  Why? Because they were educating their children when we were busy marrying ours.

“Now, this plan is here to correct those things which have left many of our members living lowly lives and redress the root causes of our public scorn. In short, we are simply trying to help each other open our eyes to development.”

Udaciza has 450 member churches. Johane Marange, Masowe, Zviratidzo Zvavapostori and Zionist churches like Jeke Mission were in attendance.

The Apostolic Stragetic Plan, whose implementation phase spans between 2014 and 2016, seeks to curb early marriages, home deliveries, child labour and encourage education-seeking behaviour in such churches.

Following ages of religiously-imposed alienation from the convectional behaviours of fellow Zimbabweans, the plan becomes the first of its kind amid high expectations that it will revolutionise the living styles of the millions of apostolic and Zionist believers, for the better.

Tsvakai believes redirecting the socialisation of children in these churches will give the vision a strong and viable foundation.

“If we set free our children, our women, only then can our country be a different country,” he said.

“There will be reduced maternal and infant mortality, respect of child rights, graduates and then success. This is only possible if we all work together. Its not an easy job but it can happen.”

The latest Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey estimates that at least one million people attend these churches.

Lot Mutunhire, the Women Affairs acting district development officer, said issues of domestic violence have become worryingly prevalent in Buhera, a society that has a high concentration of vapostori.

“Domestic violence has become a real problem, more problematic than HIV,” Mutunhire said.

“It is surprisingly prevalent in churches as you are seeing even through media. I believe the Udaciza approach is helpful in complimenting government efforts to abate the cases. Even in our culture we have a Shona adage Regai dzive shiri, mazai haana muto but it is amazing how most elderly are doing exactly the opposite.”

The officer challenged the issue of mandatory virginity testing, a subject deemed sacred amongst many apostolic churches to this day.

He said the practice was violating the rights and  dignity of young females and exposing them to abuse, including sexual abuse.

“Though we view virginity as an important aspect of a child in our culture but let us not force our girls,” he said. “Virginity testing is a right of an individual not church and government will not hesitate to deal with perpetrators. Anyway, why not do the same with boys?

“Let us give our girls their right to education, our women should give birth in safe environments. If you are not comfortable with government hospitals, build your own. Denying them all this is violence against women.”

Headwoman Agnes Mufudza said communities should embrace such initiatives and ensure offenders are made to pay for their sins.

“Let us act in ways that give hope to our children. We should not forgive offenders if we want the problem to end. If we backtrack and protect perpetrators or hide them, our society will not develop,” she said.

Official statistics show that 960 out every 100 000 women die while giving birth.

The apostolic movement constitutes 33 percent of the Christian population in Zimbabwe.

At least 80 percent of the country’s 13 million population is said to be Christian.

Comments (3)

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Clean Water - 23 January 2014

May the Lord God be praised

jairosi - 23 January 2014

Thank you for the story. Despite the generalizations in this story not all "Zion" churches have historically been anti-education and are seeing the light today. One example is the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) founded by Rev. Samuel Mutendi which was one of the first African churches to pioneer African education in this country. This former policeman (1913) and school teacher (1924) started building schools from as far back as 1932, most of which were unfortunately destroyed by the colonial regime who believed Africans could not be sent to school on their own terms. This history has been maintained and the church has to date built 11 schools countrywide which have graduated over 5000 students. Current Bishop Dr Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe partly as recognition for this effort.

Observer - 24 January 2014

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