Saturday, June 19, 2010

Speaking over deafening silence

Caryn Rogers

“As a minister, I thought the Church here had a crucial role to play - we had to speak on behalf of the majority of the people. There were so many people oppressed by the situation of the government but the Church as an entity was so quiet.” Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

In 2005 the Mugabe-led government in Zimbabwe had stopped aid provision and were destroying people’s homes and properties. Churches were providing aid as they were able – a ‘privilege’ they were allowed as long as they didn’t speak out against the government’s cruel oppression.

The Zimbabwean Methodist Church knew all too well that Mugabe needed to be opposed but they believed if they couldn’t feed the poor, they weren’t functioning as the church should.

As the church remained voiceless, some like-minded Christian leaders banded together to form a Christian Alliance - Rev Dr Levee Kadenge was amongst those leaders.

“I was arrested five times – for nothing,” Levee recalls. “It was all an attempt to eliminate my resolve to go on in this struggle.

“It was like each arrest gave us a new lease of life though. We hadn’t done anything wrong – we were just speaking on behalf of the suffering people.

“Relatives and people around us felt very sorry for us because of what was happening to us but these ‘bad things’ empowered us though to go forward and do the right thing.”

Levee was in and out of the police station, “like a yoyo,” before spending 21 days in hiding to avoid prison time. It was not unusual for those who spoke against the Government to be picked up, taken to jail and never heard from again.

“The government was comfortable with a quiet church. But now that our organisation was vocal, the persecution was expected.

Expected from the government, yes, but surprising from the Church they were speaking on behalf of.

“I guess from the Church’s point of view we were stealing their thunder, almost taking their space in the public sphere. But... they were quiet!

“At some point we amicably parted ways with the church; I was still a minister, a bishop within, but I was stood aside from the Methodist church to fulfil this prophetic role.”

In August last year, though, the Church appointed him as senior lecturer at United Theological College [Zimbabwe] – it had been two years and eight months since Levee had parted company with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

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