National Pledge criticism unwarranted

HARARE - I am sharing my response on the objections by some Christians against the National School Pledge being introduced by the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.

I would like to inform you from the onset that I am in support of the school pledge derived from the preamble of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on patriotic and civic grounds.

From a civic and patriotic point of view, do you support a national pledge in principle? If you support a national pledge in principle, would you present an alternative text for consideration?

Let’s take a step back for a moment and assume that there is no school pledge being introduced.

As a citizen, I have serious concerns that remain unaddressed.

What kind of a state is Zimbabwe?

As a State, Zimbabwe is a republic (section 1 of the Constitution Amendment No. 20 of 2013) and a constitutional democracy (section 3a).

The State is based on three pillars:

- Human worth and dignity

There is recognition of the inherent human dignity and worth of each and every human being (sections 3(f), 48 and 51);

- Human rights

There are inalienable or fundamental human rights and freedoms (sections 3(c) and 49); and

- Equality

There is the recognition of the equality of all human beings (sections 3(f) and 56).

The concerns and objections by some Christians about the school pledge have been reported to be based on religious and constitutional grounds.

The Constitution only states “the Almighty God” in its Preamble. This should be read as a generic reference to the divine acknowledged by the religious and sometimes the non-religious.

It does not give superior status to any particular religion or religious views over others.

Without deconstructing the words, the phrase in the preamble does not supersede the Bill of Rights and all the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

If anything, the correct and more accurate representation is that Zimbabwe, like most progressive states is a secular constitutional republican state that recognises the multiplicity and diversity of the religious and non-religious way of life of its citizens.

Many prominent Christians fail to affirm, acknowledge and recognise the diverse vibrancy and multiplicity of the people of Zimbabwe.

Such Christians are happy to remain discriminatory towards others by maintaining colonial privileges and advantages of Christianity.

With all due respect, the following are examples of Christian monolithic and domineering tendencies:

- Compulsory public school assembly Christian prayers

- The predominance and supremacy of Christianity and its proselytising worldview in the subject of Religious and Moral Studies in primary and secondary education instead of a critically-based comparative and multi-faith studies;

- The use of the Bible in taking oaths when swearing public officials and in the courts;

- The exclusive use of Christian ministers and prayers in public or national events and gatherings;

- The recognition of only Christian events and observances as public holidays (Easter and Christmas); and

- The establishment of only Christian chaplaincy in the security services (army, police and prison services).

These monolithic and domineering tendencies make Zimbabwe a de jure Christian state.

This is constitutionally discriminatory, divisive, conflictual and spoiling for a fight from bona fide citizens who are non-Christian and those who are non-religious.

One wonders why so many Christians don’t find this as discriminatory, divisive and conflictual?

It is because of arrogance and that to them anything non-Christian is immoral, harmful and injurious?

Such people think Christianity is the best thing that happened to this world yet we are in a secular state of diverse and multiplicity of cultures and religions and lack of.

Zimbabweans who are Christians are as such on three grounds (barring some exceptional circumstances):

- Brutal colonial history

Had we not been colonised by a Christian country, it’s highly likely that they would not have known anything about Christianity to be a convert.

- Geography

Had any of them been born somewhere like Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, even by the same parents, its most likely that they would not be Christians.

- Coercive exposure

Had they not been brought up in a Christian family and education system that has continued to sustain and protect colonial advantages and privileges, they may be of another religion or even none.

As a child, they had no choice in this exposure to Christianity and otherwise they would not be Christians.

They were exposed to Christianity without knowing what alternatives are there or critical details about it.

A peaceful and pluralist constitutional republican and democratic nation is built by harmonious co-existence of shared humanity.

This is done by respecting and acknowledging the shared and independent but cooperative humanity in our republican and constitutional democratic order.

*Ndoro is a social commentator writing in his own capacity and argues against Christian opposition to the National Pledge.


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