By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference plenary session this year emphasised on social justice and working towards meaningful integral human development. This year’s plenary had its objective to promote purposeful involvement of citizens in matters of governance, protection of the environment and child safeguarding.
Speaking during the session Chris Mhike who is a lawyer challenged the bishops to take a proactive stance in building a prophetic church that implores, begs and commands authoritatively and in love. Mhike said the church has been very much alive in issues of social justice but encouraged the bishops to do more in making sure that civic rights were protected in Zimbabwe.
“The Church should remain vibrant in making sure that freedoms and rights are nurtured and respected. The Church should be courageous in confronting injustice and help people stand for what is right,” Mhike said.
He told participants at the plenary that social justice was a political and philosophical concept which holds that all people should have fair access to wealth, health, well-being, administrative justice and opportunities. Mhike told the plenary that social justice was interconnected with the Gospel and as such should promote the welfare of all people especially the poor and vulnerable.
In the same token Fr. Alfegio Tunha OFm called on the Church leadership to come up with structures that help in the protection of the environment citing Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. He stressed that the environment was a collective good and needs a multi-stakeholder approach in protecting it. According to Fr. Tunha, the Church should encourage such practices and programmes that minimize the destruction of the ozone layer that leads to climate change.
Fr. Tunha said: “Sustainable livelihoods are only possible when all people including the church work towards preservation of the environment. Sustainable livelihoods should be people centred. Efforts should be made to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem. Humanity has created a gap between itself and other creatures that there is careless treatment and abuse of the environment. The anthropocentric approach to the environment which implies abuse of nature and is based on the old philosophy and theology needs to be revised as it views humanity as superior over all creation. We need to re-read the philosophies of Aristotle, St. Thomas Acquinas and others in understanding the relationship that exists between humanity and the environment.”
Fr. Tunha challenged the church to develop an eco-inclusive spirituality and theology which he said would curb uncontrolled damage to mother nature. He proposed campaign programmes to sensitise communities and all Christians on the dangers of environmental degradation, set out days to attend to the environment, environmental advocacy and promote eco-friendly sacraments by encouraging catechumens to plant a tree on their day of baptism and priests and religious to do the same on the day of their ordination and profession.
Sr. Letwina Musekiwa spoke of the proactive approach in child safeguarding in combating all forms of abuse in the church and community. She noted that although the church has made a lot of strides in this area, a lot still needs to be done to safeguard children and their rights.
She said all church institutions have to be safe places for children. Against the background of the breakdown of families, Sr. Musekiwa emphasised the idea of motherhood and fatherhood so that the country produces people who are mature and well integrated.
This year’s plenary which took place from 30 April – 01 May, was attended by all bishops, the Charge d’af.faires Monsignor Gabriele Pesce, ZCBC Coordinators, ZCBC funding partners and Coordinators for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace from the country’s eight dioceses.