Sunday, June 29, 2008

AWARENESS: Zimbabwe



While we Americans are fixated on choosing our next president, there is a real danger of ignoring the plight of the world around us, such as in Zimbabwe where the oppression of international food aid, government-sanctioned murder of opposition groups, and the sham election of an oppressive leader happens with little uproar. 

We have to be properly engaged both as citizens and especially as Christians if we genuinely believe in a meaningful holistic Gospel of truth that speaks to all of God's children, here and abroad.

And we need to come to a steadfast trust in the power of prayer, even with huge complex world events like this.

WHAT HAPPENED

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabweans — orphans and old people, the sick and the down and out — have lost access to food and other basic humanitarian assistance as their government has clamped down on international aid groups it says are backing the political opposition, relief agencies say.

This weekend, Zimbabweans voted in a presidential runoff that has been widely denounced by Western leaders because of state-sponsored violence and efforts to intimidate voters with threats of beatings if they failed to cast their ballots for Robert Mugabe, the sole candidate. Dozens of opposition supporters were killed in the weeks leading to the runoff. 

The opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, dropped out of the race, citing continuing attacks against his supporters, and he later sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy. 

A CLOSER LOOK

Patson Chipiro, a democracy activist, wasn’t home when Robert Mugabe’s thugs showed up looking for him.

So they grabbed his wife, Dadirai, and tormented her by chopping off one of her hands and both of her feet. Finally, they threw her into a hut, locked the door and burned it to the ground.

That has been the pattern lately: with opposition figures in hiding, Mr. Mugabe’s goons kill loved ones to send a message of intimidation. Even the wife of the mayor-elect of Harare, the capital, was kidnapped and beaten to death.

From Nicholas Kristof's latest column on Zimbabwe

NON PROFITS FORCED TO LEAVE, MANY LOSE AID

From NYTimes.com --

CARE, one of the largest nonprofit groups working in the country, has been ordered by the Zimbabwean government to suspend all its operations, which help 500,000 of the country’s most vulnerable people. This month alone, CARE would have fed more than 110,000 people in schools, orphanages, old-age homes and in various programs, it said.

But the aid restrictions go far beyond any one group. Muktar Farah, deputy head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Zimbabwe, said Tuesday that millions of people had lost assistance because of what he called “the shrinking of humanitarian space.”

..

Aid workers and human rights groups say the restrictions are meant to prevent them from witnessing attacks on opposition supporters, often in nighttime raids, amid the government’s increasingly violent and deadly crackdown on those it sees as a threat to its hold on power.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said Monday that 10,000 children had been displaced by the violence, scores had been beaten and some schools had been taken over by pro-government forces and turned into centers of torture. In a statement, it expressed worry about the welfare of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and orphaned children, given how many aid groups have restricted their operations “due to threats, requests to do so by authorities or general ‘concern at current uncertainties.’ ”

Zimbabwean political analysts and civic leaders say that Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF, his governing party, are themselves seeking to use food as a political weapon in a country, once the region’s bread basket, where hunger now afflicts millions. The government recently bought 600,000 tons of corn. By barring NGOs from giving out food in some areas, the governing party controls food distribution and can use it as an inducement to win support. 

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

With many aid groups forced, my honest answer is that from a single-person standpoint, I'm not sure. Prayer is our strongest weapon, and I don't just mean that in the abstract. I mean, literally, practically, as Christians, we are called to have faith in the true power of prayer to the living Lord.

We can also support the political sanctions our government has recently called for. Perhaps letter campaigns, calling your representatives, writing to newspapers, websites, TV, radio, etc etc and making it an issue to be concerned about is needed.

If you think those methods work, the fact that Darfur is a household name says a lot to the grassroots work of non-profits, Christian and other religious organizations, and others. 

-cdc

1 comment:

kir4077p1 said...

Chris, awesome post! It's incredible to think that Mugabe and his supporter's can get away with this kind of stuff today. I think letting our representatives know they are doing the right thing is key. Check out these links to for NJ's senators -
Senator Robert Menedez is on the Senate foreign relations committee, and has sponsored legislation relating to Darfur. Check out his website. Maybe even send him a letter.... :-)
http://menendez.senate.gov/

Frank Lautenberg, another US senator from NJ.
http://lautenberg.senate.gov/