Rev Dr Levee Kadenge’s Pilgrimage to Australia: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8 vs 28.
1.1 Towards the end of 2005, together with other concerned pastors we formed the Christian alliance as a radical response to what we considered a volatile fluid and repressive political environment. This was soon after the destruction of homes and trading stalls which had been built without local bylaws’ compliance and yet affected upwards of 700 000 people. The crisis was such that the UN had to send in a special envoy to assess the situation.
It was our conviction that the formal ecumenical organisations representing the Mainline and Pentecostal denominations (Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Catholic Bishops Conference and Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe respectively) were compromised and not responsive enough to the demands of the situation in confronting the national authorities. The government response to our organisation was more than we had bargained for.
Jim and Jan Rumery visited me within this background, at a moment in time when I was under surveillance as an undesirable and “rebellious” element. I was then bishop of Harare West District of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. Any visit by unfamiliar faces, especially whites was sufficient to arouse suspicion to the authorities. When they phoned on 22 August 2006 while on their way to the airport they asked if they could visit me because they had enough time before their plane took off. We arranged to meet at my home at their own risk I told them. They did come and friendship emerged instantly.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8 vs 28)
1.2 Four years down the line, Jim and Jan, then members of the Illawara Uniting Church in Buli, were to arrange that I pay a visit to Australia. It was not an easy task but Jim and Jan soldiered on until the trip was made possible. Now residents of Adelaide for 22 months they go to Westbourne Uniting Church. Mission secretary then, Jim successfully marketed my human rights activism to not only his church, but to the Adelaide Pilgrim Uniting Church(where they had eventually moved to) and eventually the Church in Sydney at West Epping Uniting Church.
The Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide bought the idea of sponsoring my trip to Australia even if no one knew me except for the word of the Rumerys. Together with the Northen Illawara Uniting Church they not only pledged to co-sponsor but pledged to make my trip a success through putting together their resources. They all saw some synergy between what I was doing and their own experiences in Australia and elsewhere and envisaged sharing experiences would be mutually beneficial. They also felt it worth their while sharing the sentiments and worldview of an angry and tormented bishop.
1.3 My struggle in the fight for democracy has not been confined to the four corners of Zimbabwe. God has been more than faithful to me. The sacrifices that I have made in the quest to emancipate my fellow countrymen have in some cases taken me to places distant. This has seen me travel to 25 countries, 12 in Africa and the remainder elsewhere across the world. The gratification to me has not been out of mere travel but having the opportunity to tell the Zimbabwean story to the world in the process seeking ways of dealing with our crisis and inspiring the world to take charge of their destiny. I believe the fight for true democracy and equality for humanity is not unique to Zimbabwe but is a global reality. Of all the journeying that I have had to undertake, I would want to share about my two months visit to Australia which I have christened the Australian pilgrimage. This pilgrimage also provided an opportunity for reminiscing and introspection in as much as it gave an opportunity for individual growth through such interactions.
2.0 My pilgrimage to Australia was between May and July 2010.
Jim Rumery and Bruce Burton (in the absence of any live kangaroo souvenir for a highly expectant African priest coming to kangaroo country for the first time), welcomed me at Sydney airport on 20th May 2010.
2.1 Just before the touch-down of the giant Qantas plane, I had declared my herbal tea on the forms provided. The customs authorities demanded to see my tea as I was checking out. The official at the customs confiscated my tea because it was not commercially packed. I tried to plead with her that that was my mainstay but she refused to budge. To my dismay, I had to watch the three perks I had of my cherished tea thrown into the bin. My own version of back to the roots herbal medicine, this I used in place of any other pharmaceutical medicines.
In a lighter moment as I shared my predicament with my hosts as we travelled the 65 plus kilometres to Wollongong along the South East coast, I was comforted by promises of plenty herbal teas sold in the shops. Upon arrival at Bruce and Bev’ s home which was going to be my home for the next 12 days I was greeted with a bush of one of my three teas. Bruce and Bev have always grown Lavendah as part of their garden flowers. “Look here is my tea the custom official threw into the bin.” The Lord who has always promised to provide with our daily needs had proved that he was a God of his word. For me this was a sign of good things to come.
2.2 My first assignment the following day was being on air with Nick Rhineberger of the Christian Radio Station 94.1Fm. Nick was fascinated when I said that missionaries were brought by Christ to Africa and not vice versa. Christ had been to Africa before and had always been there. When he was born Herod wanted to kill him and God directed Joseph and Mary to take Christ to Africa for safe keeping. It was not until after the death of Herod that God again appeared to Jesus’ parents to take him back because the enemy was dead. I did get several comments after the interview from individuals who listened to the interview that day. The people I met later felt it was refreshing to hear the other side of the story of Christ.
2.3 During the day Sharon Bird, (the local Federal Member of the Australian Parliament), welcomed me heartily to Australia in her office in down town Wollongong. She presented me with an Australian Flag as a sign of good will, a first in all my travels to receive a flag of a nation I was visiting. Sharon invited me to feel welcome and free to express my opinions without any fetters. She expressed her best wishes for Zimbabwe and was confident that my country with the full support of Australian government would come out of its doldrums. I responded by saluting Australia for taking the initiative to support the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity GNU when other Western countries were taking their time.
The bible speaks of a prophet as having no honour in his hometown. While I value the true friends that I have made in Zimbabwe, it is equally true that I have made many enemies because of my stance against oppression. I however continue to draw inspiration from the fact that evil thrives when the good men remain silent. It was thus gratifying for me when Kiama Independent, an Australian publication ran a story on my visit on Wednesday 26th May, 2010, which is appended to this Report as Attachment 1.
2.3.1 Reality Check: Some reflections on the media and Journalism
While I was obviously elated to have received such positive coverage from a supposedly ‘alien’ media in Australia, that rare experience from a Zimbabwean of my position conjured memories of a partisan state media back home. A media that paddles falsehoods, spews hate language day in day out and does little to reprimand the wrongs that the government of the day commits against its people. It is common to read negative and damaging stories especially if they involve perceived enemies of ZANU (PF). The answers that came to mind left me with a bleeding heart. Where did we go wrong as a nation? It is very interesting to note that the article recognised President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as the “two leaders” of Zimbabwe when the state media back home somehow negates that reality. What does that say of our Journalists? All they do is pander to the whims of the ZANU PF hardliners. We had also nurtured a rabid opposition press whose penchant for negative reporting and turning rumour into news on anything Government now entailed all level headed citizens now having to draw on their mathematical genius to get to the truth, viz; (Government owned media reports + Independent owned media reports)/2 = Something close to the truth
2.3.2 My faith and optimism however gave me a renewed belief that despite the negatives, all hope was not lost for Zimbabwe. God in his time will save our situation but we are the wheels of the positive change that we want to see and must play a part in making that dream a reality. My coming to Australia is a morale booster. The Media Monitoring Project in Zimbabwe (MMPZ) in 2008 produced a document titled “The Language of Hate, Inflammatory, Intimidating and Abusive comments of Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections.” The book documented the main sources of inflammatory, offensive and intimidating language that characterised Zimbabwe’s 2008 election. It provided a clear documentary evidence of the origins and messengers of “hate speech” that has so much traumatised and divided Zimbabwean Society today. This anomaly was not only consistent with the 2008 elections but has for a long time been a cancer that has slowly destroyed the fabric of our society. What peace can we dream of with such a media? It is certainly a form of political oppression for the long suffering Zimbabweans. How refreshing the thought of a country where there is freedom of the press.
2.3.3 Media reform was earmarked as one of the key deliverables of the Government of National Unity upon consummation of the Global Political Agreement. It is however disheartening that very little has been done to ascertain media reforms to date save for a mere licensing of some publications and the appointment of a malfunctioning Media Commission whose credibility is questionable. The media must realise that it has a duty to inform and issues of balance are a necessity in practise.
A good example of how the media can foster oppression is an excerpt from the Sunday Mail of 15 June 2008 which quoted President Mugabe as having said the following words: “ZANU PF fought for you, for our rights, land and a bright future. This legacy should not simply be vanquished by the stroke of a pen at the ballot just because I am not getting basic goods...Otherwise a simple X would have taken the country back to 1890. The Third Chimurenga can’t just die because of an X. All those who died in the struggle will turn in the graves”. What the state media was insinuating with such remarks is beyond me. What legacy was there to protect when we had an economy in doldrums and the entire nation languishing in poverty save for a corrupt and powerful few? Was the state media implying that voting for a candidate of your choice is a futile effort in Zimbabwe? My stay in Australia made me see the ousting of one prime minister by another within a very short space of time without any hustles. Such is the democracy in this continent of Australia.
3.0 The Australian Experience:
They say when chance and opportunity meet, success has got no option but to manifest. I can safely say, my pilgrim to Australia was one of the most successful and educative missions in my entire life. It is never too late to learn and I am more than certain that the knowledge that I gained in Australia will come in handy at this prime stage of my life and I am positive that the assertion that with age comes wisdom will equally apply in my life. The opportunity was nothing short of the Lord’s doing. Those who compiled my itinerary were to a large extent the architects of this experience and exposure, and a run through my diary and engagements for the rest of my stay reflects a commonwealth through interface. The opportunity to share my experiences with fellow Christians in Australia was as if it had been prearranged in heaven and the Lord had certainly gone before me.
In Wollongong where I spent my first 12 days, I stayed with Bruce and Bev Burton. Just the feeling of touching down and acclimatising during those first few days was refreshing. Coming from a land locked country, spending twelve days on the coast was more than a bonus to me. What even with a comely and loving couple as your hosts? While in Wollongong, I had the opportunity to visit the Illawara Presbytery of the Uniting Church, which stretches along the coast for a distance of about 85 kms. I had an opportunity to visit Berry Men’s Shed. This encounter with men of varying ages sharing their skills was just amazing. That was an eye opening experience for me and I will forever be grateful to God for that rare opportunity. I also spoke to the Presbytery and thanked them for initially supporting and blessing the efforts of Northern Illawara Uniting Church congregation which meets in Bulli. The presbytery promised to continue to support our work in Zimbabwe.
3.1.1 The major highlights of my stay in Wollongong was the chance to preach to the Northern Illawara Uniting Church and other congregations in town and the lead article about my experiences that was published in the Kiama Independent of May 26. The article captured my experiences in Zimbabwe and how my travel to Australia was going to benefit the Zimbabwean cause and other humanitarian experiences that I was carrying out in Zimbabwe with the Institute of Theological Reflection Today (ITRT) and Zimbabwe Christian Alliance.
3.1.2 A visit to Symbio Wilde Life sanctuary during the week made my stay in Wollongong complete. What, with the opportunity to see and touch Kangaroo for the first time. The other animals I had a close shave with were the likes of the kookaburra, koala, the red kangaroo and many others. Even my communication back home changed tone. It was like now I have seen a live Kangaroo so what is more to see? Little did I know that I was just in the little corner of a vast and gigantic continent full of flora and fauna.
Acknowledging service to the needy: Northern Illawara Uniting Church
It was in Wollongong that I also had time to thank the Northern Illawara Uniting Church which has been supporting the ITRT projects in Zimbabwe like the fish project, food packs distribution to Chivero and encouraging them to continue supporting us. In particular Bruce and Bev Burton, The Chairperson of the Church Council Ron Perry and Nerrida Miller, the leader of the congregation, to name a few. As a Christian leader, I have realised that true Christianity is not just about giving a message of hope and advocating for justice. The church needs to find practical ways of dealing with issues if it is to remain relevant. What good is there in preaching about the life hereafter to a hungry and oppressed person? This has prompted me to run some projects that help disadvantaged communities back home and the Northern Illawara Uniting Church has been one of the most supportive groups to this cause. This project has made me realise that sometimes it only takes initiative to help others and God then raises people to fulfil that dream.
The bible speaks about how over five thousand were fed simply because there was some two fish and five loaves of bread. It only took that small effort in availing little and visibly inadequate food for the multitudes to be fed, with God’s love complimenting this effort with its creative powers by multiplying the initial . I firmly believe in God’s law of multiplication and I have a strong conviction that these communities sustaining projects will grow by the day and will help reintegrate Zimbabweans into their communities and empower them. The majority of the beneficiaries are actually victims of the 2008 Presidential election re-run violence and the economic decline that was being presided over by the Mugabe regime. Widows and other disadvantaged people have been incorporated in the process.
The tension and power politics within the country is such that those foreigners who engage in humanitarian assistance might find themselves on the receiving end political gibberish and insults. It is more like the case of a father who after realising that he has no means of providing for his family takes insult at every well-wisher’s effort to assist for fear of being exposed. Good men cannot fail to intervene on behalf of fellow man for such diatribe. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, was the good Samaritan seen in any good anyhow? It is therefore not folly that Christ chooses the hated and despised to represent good and relief in this story.
3.2.1 In Sydney, the United Theological College, my own home college’s name sake provided a homely peer contact interface as I moved from Wollongong. Given my passion for learning and idea exchange, I had a memorable experience sharing with Faculty and ministerial students at the United Theological College which is a part of the Charles Sturt University. Sharing my experiences with the students and Faculty gave them a better understanding of the person that I am, my personal experiences at the same time giving them a challenge to awaken to their social responsibilities as they carry out their ministerial duties. It is true that ministry today calls for more than just preaching the gospel. One needs to be in touch with the realities affecting their flock otherwise ministry becomes irrelevant. I found the College programs to be very rich in equipping those training for ministry. No wonder before I left UTC a consignment of books and tutorials were to be posted to Zimbabwe by Rev Amelia Koh-Butler, the Director of Education for Life Ministry ahead of my return at the expense of the College. Thanks to the principal Dr Clive Pearson for extending such a big heart. Also to Katalina Tahaafe-Williams who arranged my itinerary in Sydney.
3.2.2 In between sessions at UTC I had opportunity to visit chaplaincies at both New South Wales University and Sydney University, where Andrew Johnson and John Hirt are Uniting Church of Australia chaplains at these universities respectively. Theirs is a daunting task for they work in situations which are predominantly secular. Their presence created an oasis of hope. I was moved to share with groups of students who were on fire with sharing the Gospel to each other. It is not exaggerating to say that the Uniting Church of Australia is wise to keep on the candle lighting the corridors of higher learning institutions across the continent. I was to witness the results of the work of many university chaplains across the nation when I attended later the School of Discipleship in Canberra. Scores of university students attended a four day workshop which was full of life and I could not help but reflect on the work the chaplains were doing.
3.2.3 Over the years, I have developed the acumen to preach basing on my personal experiences. To me, preaching starts at a personal level and I often take time to apply the word to my life before I emphasize on reaching my audience. It is out of ignorance that one makes an effort to deal with personal issues and rivalry from the pulpit. The gospel must prepare an individual for salvation not just condemn them to hell. It must give people a new hope for salvation. While in Sydney, I preached to the West Epping Uniting Church congregation (three services) which has one of the biggest congregations that also includes a number of officers of the Uniting World including its Chief Executive Officer Dr Kerry Enright. My sincere thanks to the ministers and folk of West Epping.
3.2.4 I was also fortunate enough to visit the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge which are some of Australia’s most treasured tourist attractions. The usual dull weather this time of the year suddenly changed to a bright day creating a rare opportunity to sample the beautiful spots of this grand city. Sydney by night was a marvellous sight coming from Harare where electricity comes in drips and droves. I could not help but thank God for such a wonderful opportunity to sample abundance and freedom. To crown it all I had opportunity to meet and also to be invited for lunch by Sarah White the founder of Lent Event which has grown so big and works closely with the Uniting World in supporting various initiatives across Australia and the world.
3.2.5 Sydney - Home away from Home
While I heartily salute my Australian hosts for a warm welcome and exquisite hosting during my stay, I was rather touched and exhilarated when I met two groups of Zimbabweans resident in Australia. Having the opportunity to meet your fellow countrymen in such a faraway place gave me a sense of home away from home. The union and memories shared were fulfilling. We all had our theories and understanding of the situation back home but what joined us was the fact that we were all proud Zimbabweans with a shared vision for positive change in our motherland.
22.214.171.124 The first group particularly interested me in that they wanted me to preach to them but already had the scripture that they wanted me to preach from. When I arrived at their meeting place having chosen a text they instead gave me a passage to preach from, Mathew 13, which talks about the parable of the sower. The leader announced that he was inspired to choose that text for me. While this is not a very common arrangement, I didn’t read much into this as I summoned heavenly wisdom and inspiration to guide. I just prayed to God that he gives me the word of impartation and that he ministers to the very needs of his people. It was a miracle to have the congregation thanking me for a God given message and all I could do is glorify him. God had given me the word in season and through it revived his people and myself.
126.96.36.199 The second group was made of members of the United Methodist Church. I however noticed that the majority of these people are actually former members of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe back home. While I have no problems with people fellowshipping in any congregation as long as it is uplifting to their souls, I felt that my church, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe had an open challenge to continue shepherding its flock even when they leave for overseas.
188.8.131.52 I also discovered that these Zimbabweans who are largely economic refugees have very little time to rest and are having to cope with hard work as some actually have two jobs or more. This will be out of a desire to cushion themselves from financial woes. I couldn’t help but count Zimbabwe’s losses as some of these people are qualified, experienced and dedicated people who are contributing to the success of another country’s economy. Not that Australia or any other country that has opened to these Zimbabwean economic refugees doesn’t deserve this benefit. The Zimbabwean government created this monster of brain drain through its failed policies and it must find ways of dealing with it. There is no need for blame shifting.
I salute the Australian government for their immigration laws that allow for spouses to benefit once a partner is offered employment. Family members like in-laws and parents are allowed to visit for a period not exceeding three months and of those in employment, they can be made Australian citizens after a period of three years. Most of the Zimbabwe communities in Australia are very safe with regards to family ties. Such rights are however a mere pipe dream back home where fellow Africans from countries like Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia to name a few are still considered as aliens after having spent decades in Zimbabwe and positively contributing to the gross domestic product. How do you label someone who has been resident for 30 years alien? The thought of such a complete disregard of people’s God given rights irked me.
3.2.6 The United Theological College (UTC) again hosted me and again afforded me the treasured opportunity to tell the Zimbabwean story as it is. Interacting with these brothers and sisters, prompted my continued reflection on our challenges as Zimbabweans, the crying need for a lasting solution. At UTC, I was given a guest house for my accommodation and would go for lunch and dinner at a member of the Faculty’s house for the duration of my stay. A very African arrangement, I found this very humane and made me not feel home-sick. I equally cherished my stay and the knowledge that I gained from my interactions and presentations to the UTC family. While I may not claim to be righteous, I could help but revisit the piece of scriptures that remarks that the steps of a righteous man are authored by God. It was very clear to me that my every step in Australia was indeed authored and guided by God. He was with me every step of the way.
3.2.7 The icing on the cake came as Dr Clive Pearson invited me to be on the Editorial Committee of Cross-Culture, a Journal of Theology and Ministerial Practice. This bi-annual journal is presently published by United Theological College. It is a peer reviewed journal. Cross cultural theology is at the heart of the journal articles. This is necessary because of the Diaspora nature of our communities where individuals and groups of people have migrated at different times and find themselves interacting in new theological settings. This brings out a mosaic theological pattern that is understood through open discourses as covered in the journal series. I would be bringing the African flavour to the editorial committee. I promise to contribute articles soon to this esteemed journal.
3.7.8 But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10: 29)
An encounter with Dr Kerry Enright, the Executive Secretary of the UnitingWorld of the Uniting Church of Australia, (based in Sydney) seemed to present another Good Samaritan scenario, which somehow entrenched my faith and heightened my quest to fight for positive change in Zimbabwe. It was gratifying to have a Christian brother from a place that distant not only empathising but sharing in my experiences and concurring with me on the need to fight oppression. While some Christian leaders in Zimbabwe have chosen to give a blind eye to the crisis of governance or joined the oppressor through showering them with unwarranted praises, it was indeed uplifting to have a Christian leader with the interests of God’s people at heart. Christian leaders just like the political authorities need to understand that they are just but stewards who have a higher office to answer to in heaven. I also had the privilege to meet the Moderator, the Rev Niall Reid, of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT at Church Headquarters in Sydney.
It was dejavu, as I rejoined Jim and Jan Rumery, who had since moved to Adelaide for 2 months by then, and were now attending Westbourne Uniting Church. I stayed for a whole month with the Rumerys.
May I express my deep appreciation to the ministers of the Pilgrim Uniting Church, Rev Dr Tony Eldridge and Rev Sandy Boyce. Sandy Boyce took on the task of arranging my itinerary in Australia. Further to the Chairperson of the Pilgrim Uniting Church Council, Dr Marelle Harisun and many other members of the Congregation who provided considerable support during my time in Adelaide.
3.3.1 My second day in Adelaide I was given the privilege to be at a reflection centre, Nunyara, where I spent a whole day on my own, reflecting on my life and getting perspective. It is a thing called for especially where durable peace and stability prevails to spend some reflection time on your own. It somehow refreshes your mind and allows you to reflect on your past and plan for the future. Unfortunately, this is a dream for Zimbabweans who have to worry about their next meal and next dollar every minute of the day. The most painful reality is that all this worrying and trouble is not a natural development but a clear result of human greed and insensitiveness.
It was at the reflection centre that I met Matt Curnow who had also come for the same experience. Matt is a Uniting Church minister responsible for rural ministry in South Australia. He had also come for a quiet time and the conversations we had led to the Riverland and Murray Mallee familiarization trip which I embarked on fifteen days later with him. I have also had some rural ministry experience with my church in Zimbabwe and this has given me a better understanding of all the dynamics of such a ministry. I have also developed better appreciation of working with rural folks and understanding their needs. Being offered an opportunity to visit rural ministry even in Australia was thus pulsating.
3.3.2 Rejuvenated and reinvigorated after the reflection centre interval, I then headed to the Uniting College of Leadership and Theology where I had the opportunity to lecture to Aboriginal students and other ministerial students. Rev Dr Richard Wallace, Coordinator, National Leadership Program of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress hosted me assisted by Ian Dempster. I am sure many people the world over know about the history of the Aborigine people in Australia, the challenges they have endured and the pain that they have undergone. Sharing with such people and especially coming from a Zimbabwe where the government of the day has reduced the ordinary people to beggars in their motherland was indeed a gratifying undertaking. You would realise gentle reader that the pain that the Aborigine people have endured over decades is very much akin to the suffering that the ordinary Zimbabweans have had to contend with from the colonial era to the post independence era in which the former liberator has fast become the oppressor.
3.3.3 After the lectures to the Aborigine students and Ministerial students, I also managed to speak to the Synod for South Australia which has Adelaide as its capital. Those with prior knowledge of how main line churches like the Methodist Church operate would understand the importance of a synod in as far as strengthening ministry work is concerned. It is a very important meeting where key decisions on the way forward with ministry work are made and necessary changes in policy, ideology and leadership are made but all in a very democratic and consultative manner.
The Synod had a session on ‘Fresh Expressions’ a new wave of expressing people’s faith outside the normal church structures which started in UK. A UK based cleric led the sessions and a lot of debate ensued. We learn from each so I realised as I reflected on the matter. What I heard as new developments and having started in UK has been and is an everyday phenomenon in Africa. The so-called established or historical churches are now far outnumbered by ‘new expression’ emerging congregations which are growing so big across the continent of Africa. While Australia can learn from UK it can also turn its eyes closer to Africa to learn how churches are emerging and growing everyday in Africa.
3.3.4 After the South Australia Synod, I also had the opportunity to preach to specific congregations in that community. I had opportunity to preach to the largest congregation of Sudanese people based in Adelaide of over 300 members. This congregation is based at Maughan Uniting Church. The Rev Leillie McLaughlin hosted me at this church. My sermons touched many souls and in all this, I didn’t forget to call on the prayers and support of these fellow brothers and sisters for other African nations, including my native Zimbabwe. I also preached to nationals of Liberia and Sierra Leone who are shepherded by local Uniting Church congregations. I also visited the town of Gawler and had an interesting meeting with church members of Gawler Uniting Church during the week. See Attachment II
I believe in the power of prayer to change things and in as much as I am a pragmatist, I still feel change feeds from God’s intervention. I also addressed pertinent issues like ‘Conflict in Society – the Role of the Church’ and ‘Politics and Power Struggle – What a price justice.’ All these sessions which were held at Pilgrim Uniting Church plus one at Synod were ably moderated by Dr Marelle Harisun. She is also a member of the Christian Council of Australia.
3.3.5 Pligrim Uniting Church Guest Preacher
I was also a guest preacher at the Pilgrim Uniting Church for the month of June where I would preach two to three times a Sunday and also give speeches and lectures during the week. The organisers of these services, lectures and speech presentations did well to advertise them and more often than not, I would speak to a very encouraging audience. I also made many friends while speaking at the Synod. Pilgrim Church is special in the sense that it actually underwrote my trip to Australia. I must admit I was baffled by the leadership of Tony Eldridge and Sandy Boyce, especially their faith in engaging someone they had never seen to be a guest preacher for the whole month at their church, itself a challenge to me. Such faith and trust is rare to come by these days especially when you are coming from a different culture and background.
184.108.40.206 While in Adelaide, I also had time to visit Jennie Hackett’s farm. Jennie is a member of Pilgrim Uniting Church. I actually spent a whole day feeding cattle at the farm. Being the farmer that I am back home, I could not ask for more. For a moment, it felt like I was back at my farm in Zimbabwe. Feeding the cattle at a farm just outside Adelaide and gelling with the smell of cow dung gave me a great feeling and some creeping nostalgia. After the farm experience, I also had an appointment with the Moderator of the South Australia Synod Rev Rod Dyson and his officers for more than two hours. We also had an opportunity to exchange notes on Ministry work after which I had another chance for sightseeing. Without knowing another week was over.
220.127.116.11 Radio and other forms of advertisement sensitised a lot of Zimbabweans to my presence, which prompted a number of meetings and engagements. Forward in Faith Ministries, better known as Zimbabwe Assemblies of God in Africa (Forward in Faith) in native Zimbabwe also hosted me and gave me an opportunity to preach to their congregation. I was also invited by the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Australia and out of that congregation, 12 were actually Methodist Church In Zimbabwe members who had to join UMC because they had no other alternative in Australia.
3.3.7 I did present a public lecture at Flinders University. This was organised through the help of Rev Geoff Boyce the Uniting Church chaplain at the university. I spoke on the ‘Church and Political Change in Zimbabwe.’ I shared with the group the struggle of a divided church. One section of the church tried to play it safe with the government by not raising pertinent issues. Those who decided to speak on behalf of the people were victimised. I personally became a victim and was victimized both by the government and my church. It was only after the formation of the Government of National Unity that my church admitted me back to full appointment. When the situation was tough my church asked me to go on forced unpaid sabbatical. For two years I was doing my own thing. Now I am back because there is peace. What an irony! Is it not the role of the church to struggle with the oppressed?
3.3.8 Encounter with Indigenous Leaders and forgiving as life giving
18.104.22.168 My first encounter with the indigenous leaders was at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology in Adelaide. It did not take time before we were sharing similar stories. Richard Wallace introduced me to his group which I shared with my experience as an African from a country that was once colonized. I also meet the Congress - Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. I shared with them my story of hate for Mugabe which had deteriorated to the point of me switching off the television each time he appeared on television. I had been arrested five times without any charge. This was done just to break my resolve. For some time I tried to defend my position until one day I just decided to forgive him. After I had done that I felt relieved. I felt the burden I was carrying lifted. I felt like growing wings. The scripture that says “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11 vs 28ff) became very vivid to me.
Aboriginal people like my people back home are in danger of carrying heavy burdens of unforgiving for the rest of their lives. The greatest danger is to pass on hatred. The time we fail to forgive we load it upon ourselves and we only do great disservice to ourselves. Those whom we say wronged us may not even be thinking about it or troubling themselves. It is true however that they do carry guilt in their lives but sometimes they do not realize it. It is only when the guilt and the hurting people open up to each other that true reconciliation is achieved. Kevin Rudd, Australian Prime Minister, did well to ask for forgiveness a few years ago but a lot has to be done to make that faith step produce results.
22.214.171.124 Since I arrived in Australia many people here expected me to bring a message of hatred for Mugabe but were disappointed because I showed a spirit of forgiveness. This was shown in many a forum that I addressed in which I shared my story of forgiveness. In a number of instances individuals would bolt out of the sessions lamenting that all along they had been praying for Mugabe to die. I told them the story of the Pharaohs the great African leaders who enslaved the Israelites for over 400 years. When God sent Moses to liberate them God at one time hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I am sure every Israelite would have wished Pharaoh dead but God did not answer that prayer. A number of Zimbabweans would have wished Mugabe dead but God did not respond positively to such a prayer, instead He hardened his heart. God does that for a purpose. If Pharaoh was not as wicked perhaps the Church Fathers would have found it very difficult to include the story of the bondage of Israel in the Old Testament. Perhaps God is hardening Mugabe’s heart for a purpose, who knows?
A few weeks before I came to Australia I had opportunity to attend the Zimbabwe Prime Minister’s wife’s memorial service at a Methodist Church in Harare. I was late for the service. When I arrived the service was already on. My wife and I were ushered into the Church right in front where there was space left for the Church was full. And whom did I sit close to? I sat just a spitting distance between me and Mugabe. Had this happened before I had forgiven him I could have turned down the offer to sit in front. But because it came when I had forgiven him I was so happy to be very close to the man I had forgiven a couple of months earlier. When he was asked to speak to the congregation I could not help but marvel at the youthfulness of Mugabe. He had just celebrated his 86 birthday. But looking at him he was just like 56.
Thus, those people we may pray that God takes them away, at times He rewards with good health. For His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. And all this is done for a purpose. It is not for us to wish anyone dead or bad. What we can only do best is to forgive and we are the winners. I am not in any way saying we should condone even the bad things our leaders do. The law must take its course for justice to be done. Rather, just that no one harbour ill for anyone. Let not the sun go down before you have forgiven the one who has wronged you. When we are angry and unforgiving we are open to be used even by any force. We tend to drink too much because we are depressed by something which we have not corrected. We turn to drugs because we are hurting. We turn to crime because we are not at peace with ourselves. Aborigines like Africans may defend their position of hurting always because of what has happened to them in the past. This has to come to an end if they are to progress. I am not in any way saying we should pretend that all is well. But that we should be open to each other and demand that we confess to each other.
The cross that we carry is to live together while we have forgiven each other for the past wrongs. We do not have to forget. Forgetting is not a virtue. Even Christ did not command us to forget the events that lead to the cross. Instead he commanded us to remember when he said at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Since the death of Christ on the cross we remember the event like it happened recently. Living a victorious life is to live with people who have wronged you and you have forgiven them. This is my message to all the peoples of this world who have been wronged and to those who have also wronged others. We may not have been involved personally but our ancestors may have done it on our behalf. We cannot run away from the actions of our ancestors. “..For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”(Exodus 20 vs 5b-6). If we do not correct them now they will haunt us and the future generations until they try to make peace with each other. As we read this let us commit ourselves to working for true peace that comes through opening up to each other and deal with the past squarely.
126.96.36.199 The message above was taken heartily by my audience. We promised to share the message across to everyone who was prepared to listen to our story. Our wish was if we could have more opportunities to share such deep understanding of life. I promised in faith that I was going to come back with my dear wife, Maybe and share more insights on the subject of forgiving and living a victorious life both as Australians and Africans. This has to begin somewhere and I was convinced it would catch on across the continent of Australia and the world over.
188.8.131.52 The words of the NSW Congress Chairperson Dianne Torrens are very instructive, “As an Indigenous leader I often tell my people that progress will come, to draw on your faith in God and believe that you can do it. When you find yourself broken, in a ditch and with no strength, you need God’s faith to know that he will turn the situation around.” (From ‘Message Stick’ the magazine of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Autumn/2010, pg 9). From the same source one lady Indigenous Ministry and Theology student demonstrates that change is possible “I was hooked on alcohol for two years. The addiction was killing me, my kids and my family and even though I knew I was often drunk I would call out to the Lord for help to get me out of the situation. Alcohol had a really stronghold on me. Initially it was fun but it soon took control of my life but that was until the Lord turned my life around.” (Pg15)
3.4 Riverland and Murray Mallee Tour
The journey took us to Bermera, Waikerie and Berri where we put up for the night. Then Pinnaroo and Lameroo, all Uniting Church congregations. Matt Curnow, Rural Mission Planner Uniting Church SA Presbytery and Synod of South Australia took me there. At each place we had reflection meetings. We discussed the problems that these congregations faced because of the absence of resident minister. My experience from the Institute of Theological Reflection Today helped me to bring out relevant issues affecting these congregations. They agreed that they were lacking pastoral care from a minister. They also needed constant supervision. New members did not trust them. Some prospective members left before they settled because they were expecting the presence of a minister. The advantages they picked on were that they were now caring for each other like they never did before. They had the freedom to do those things they had always wanted to do but could not do because of the minister. This made them a very close knit family a thing which could not happen when they were cushioned by the constant presence of the minister. They learnt to conduct funerals and to give communion. They saved money because they did not have a minister to pay. They could use the funds they had for caring for those in need. By the end of the trip we had clocked just over 900 km. At least I had an opportunity to see Australia’s outback.
Before I left Adelaide Pilgrim Church I was invited to a farewell party where I was given gifts including an album with most of the photos I took and I was taken during my stay in Australia. It was indeed a pleasant surprise which I will cherish for a very long time. May the good Lord continue to bless the people of Adelaide Pilgrim Church.
3.5.1 I stayed in Canberra for a period of seven days. The first three days were with John and Jill Robertson. While Canberra had its fare share of experiences for me with regards to my ministry and humanitarian work, I also enjoyed the scenic sights of the Parliament and the Embassy for the Aboriginal people, a protest embassy which is in the form of a tent built in front of the old parliament. That the Aboriginal people’s embassy is built in front of parliament and is in the form of a tent appears to stem from their dismay at the disregard of their rights and their painful experiences in the past. That for me is an indication of a people in desperate need of healing and healing of memories as is the case in Zimbabwe. It appears the Aborigines still harbour so much hurt and pain and a lot needs to be done for their healing.
3.5.2 I also liked the Canberra tour that I had with Dan and Maureen Etherington, including the coffee. The talk I gave at the Kippax Uniting Church under the theme, “The Church’s role in the future of Zimbabwe”, hosted by Dan was thrilling. A reunion with Pam Pelling once a missionary to Zimbabwe several years ago, who is now 90, was a pleasant surprise. She became my English mentor when we stayed in Harare at UTC together. She had heard of my visit and surprised me by coming to the meeting.
3.5.3 While politicians have developed a knack of sidelining churches and sometimes threatening them whenever they speak to national issues, the fact is that Christians have a role to play. The Uniting Church in Australia’s Statement on Human Rights highlights that human beings are created in the image of God who is three persons in open, joyful interaction. The Uniting Church thus believes that every person is precious and entitled to live with dignity because they are God’s children, and that each person’s life and rights need to be protected or the human community (and its reflection of God) and all people are dismissed. They have some encouraging contributions to the national human rights discourse.
The Uniting Church believes that in Jesus Christ we discern that which is truly human and that Christians are called to love their neighbour as they love themselves and extend that love to enemies. It is therefore the love of God in Christ Jesus which must motivate us to live out this calling by working for peace with justice in our church, our communities and the world. The recognition of human rights for the Uniting Church is an affirmation of the dignity of all people and essential for achieving peace with justice. Our leaders must see Christ in every person and they won’t go wrong. Egotism is exactly what is ruining service to humanity as leaders care more about self-enrichment than satisfying the needs of those they lead.
3.5.4 After having enjoyed the Canberra sights, I was afforded the opportunity to meet the Uniting Care team, which is a service arm of the Church and deals with issues like justice and health needs of the people among others. Just the realisation that the Uniting Church has a high regard for the rights of the people gave me better inspiration to continue fighting for justice in Zimbabwe. For Zimbabweans however, a lot more needs to be done because the situation at hand goes in tune with the old age reality that rights should not be asked for but demanded. They are not freely given but are taken. We have to fight against more ruthless forces in the form of a government that has far outlived its time span and is only ruling by force and coercion.
3.5.5 At the Uniting Care, I also had lunch with the outgoing Director Lin Hatfieds Dodds who is also vying for Senatorship. It was encouraging for me to have a Christian leader vying for a national post.
3.5.6 Also in Canberra, I had chance to relate with Rev Dr James Haire, (previously President of the Uniting Church in Australia), from the Centre for Christianity and Culture. The name Centre for Christianity and Culture somehow took me aback. Lest some argue that our advocacy for democratic space in Zimbabwe is informed by the white man’s Christian faith, a closer look at the Zimbabwean culture clearly reflects that respect for humanity and people’s rights has always been a demand that every form of leadership has had to respect. Whichever way you look at it, respect of the people’s human and God given rights is a necessary reality. It befuddles the mind why our current crop of leadership has chosen to ignore people’s rights. They are so preoccupied with power retention that they have very little if any regard for people’s rights.
3.5.7 School of Discipleship
During my last days (4 days) in Canberra, I went to the School of Discipleship with university students from across Australia, at Greenhills where they had a conference and crusade. The School ran from the 9th to the 12th of July 2010 and I shared a room with Doug Hewitt and I also had the opportunity to speak about my experiences back home with most of these meetings actually oversubscribed. I also had the rare opportunity to meet and share briefly with the Uniting Church President, the Rev Alistair Macrae who also visited the School of Discipleship. Attachment 3 details the expectations and perceptions per the event programme.
It is my sincere hope that my experiences and the interaction that I had at the School of Discipleship will help inspire fellow Christian leaders to desist from preaching the gospel of the cross without looking at the practical realities facing their members. Ministry certainly calls for more than just preaching. I believe that the whole undertaking somehow strengthened the Zimbabwean Christian and indeed national community with Australia and more positive interaction and partnerships will come out of it. I am convinced that Australia now has an understanding of the Zimbabwean crisis from a Christian leader’s perspective as compared to that of a politician.
3.5.8 A take on Diplomacy
The world today has become a global village and diplomatic relations have taken a centre stage in the way nations relate. It was thus after the successful School of Disciples experience that I then took time to visit the Zimbabwean Embassy to Australia in Canberra.
I just felt enthralled by the idea of better understanding how the embassy operates and the roles they are playing towards nation building. The Zimbabwean ambassador Jacqueline Zwambila was very happy to see me and had time to give me a tour of the place and introduce me to her team at the same time allowing me to share my beliefs and vision for the great nation that we share, Zimbabwe.
No one person can claim to be more Zimbabwean than the other and we have all contributed positively in our small ways to nation building. It is only suicide for one to continue holding on to power regardless of the realities on the ground simply because they feel they had some positive contributions in the past. Even cup winning football coaches get fired when the results are no longer coming. In one of the mother languages in Zimbabwe; Shona we say “matakadya kare haanyaradzi mwana” meaning you cannot comfort a hungry and crying child by retelling stories of the goodies of yesteryears. You need to deal with her present state of hunger if you are to win her affection. Our leaders must awaken to this reality.
4.0 Some parting remarks: Service to Humanity
4.1 My pilgrim to Australia gave me better insights on what leadership and people centred service is all about. The School of Discipleship in Australia asserts that if we idolise wealth, we create poverty; if we idolise success, we create the less fortunate; if we idolise power, we create powerlessness; if we idolise anger and hate, we devalue healing and transformation; if we idolise violence, we devalue life; if we live non-violently, we herald God’s peaceable reign; if we live as radical disciples, we subvert the dominion paradigm and if we live for what Jesus lives for, we resist the paralysing official consensus and we change the world.
4.2 Ours is to make an informed choice and make sure that we leave a legacy that we are going to be proud of even when we lie in our graves. Whoever said durable peace, national healing/progress born out of dignity in humanity is a pipedream? My personal experiences in the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe have shown that it is never too late to make amends. Our political leaders need to respect the human dignity of its people and see to it that they throw away the pretence and selfishness for servitude and empathy.
4.3 Our political leaders simply need to awaken to the reality that leadership is more about service to the people than useless grandstanding and giving some useless speeches about sovereignty and how they liberated the country. Yes they liberated the country and then what? While we all celebrated independence in Zimbabwe, the present reality is there is no democratic space in Zimbabwe and people are a hungry and hurting lot. The people’s human dignity has been eroded to say the least.
4.4 When human dignity or a person’s rights are tempered with, either by way of deliberate power retention machinations especially in undemocratic nations or in cases of unplanned conflict, there is need for redress as a complete disregard of that anomaly is a sure recipe for disaster. A disregard of that sense of human dignity and stability disturbs world order hence need for programmes like national healing and healing of memories in conflict areas. Closer to home, countries like Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa to name a few have successfully carried out these corrective interventions. Such noble realisations have in some instances helped to entrench durable peace. The same is now happening in our country and every self respecting Zimbabwean, the principals included must see the opportunities and new hope that national healing can bring to our nation.
4.5 One Barbra Deutschman, an Australian Christian author writes that when someone has hurt or slighted us, we feel a natural sense of indignation. We know that they have violated our sense of who we are. This response is consistent with our natural knowledge of ourselves as people made in the image of God, worthy of dignity and respect. It is equally true that we all have individual egos and pride and any disregard of our beliefs and values even minus a violent unleashing of terror is hurting. The unfortunate thing under such circumstances is that not many perpetrators of hurt and violence are ready to say sorry or make the slightest attempt at correcting their wrongs. This has had catastrophic results and implications in world affairs and the sooner we wake up to that the better.
One Man’s plea (Published 26th May, 20101, Kiama Independent, Australia)
By Danielle Cetiniski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Few are brave enough to stand up to a brutal regime, but Zimbabwe’s Reverend Dr Bishop Kadenge is one of them.
The democracy advocate visited Kiama Uniting Church yesterday to share his people’s plight with Kiama residents and to form a stronger connection with Australia.
“I am here to promote friendship and together see what we can do about the situation back home,” he said.
According to the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website, Zimbabwe is extremely unstable: demonstrations can turn violent, bribes are sometimes taken by police, cholera and HIV are common and water and electricity can be cut off for weeks on end.
US dollars are now the currency in Zimbabwe because hyperinflation meant just one litre of fuel could cost hundreds of thousands in the country’s native currency, according to SW Radio Africa.
“The Zimbabwean dollar is dead,” Bishop Kadenge said.
“People might exchange a bucket of maize for a chicken – they’re surviving without a dollar in their hands.
“It’s the very basics of trade.”
Bishop Kadenge has been politically vocal against Robert Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), especially during the 2008 election against the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
Results were withheld for four weeks until the two leaders decided to share power.
“There were expectations that after the election, things would improve,” the Bishop said.
“They did improve but not as we hoped – it was just a marriage of convenience and our expectations were dashed.”
A Methodist, Bishop Kadenge also founded the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, attacking the Zimbabwe Council of Churches for not speaking up against the people’s suffering at Mugabe’s hands.
But Bishop Kadenge’s open condemnation of the regime has come at a price: during his life, he has been arrested, imprisoned, and interrogated by the police five times without trial.
His high profile at home and abroad has saved him from worse punishment, but he said his faith has been his comfort. “Being a Christian means being in touch with things,” he said.
“I got in fully knowing the dangers I faced – it’s only human to be afraid...but I’m not alone in my struggle.”
Bishop Kadenge will be in the Illawaras until Sunday, May 30.
We are still rejoicing in your visit to Gawler. Thank you so much for your candour, openness and faith.
Chris [my wife] & I would like to participate in one of your courses as ‘outsiders’ [audit, isn’t it?]. Could you send some information about what programmes are accessible as AUDIT topics for us to peruse?
We are continuing to meet, hoping to focus on exploring ‘Contemporary Faith Issues’ and even wondered if we used one of your programmes to ‘explore contemporary issues’.
We continue to pray for you and your ministry in the Alliance – and for the future of your wonderful country.
Grace and Peace,
Storytelling of faith from Zimbabwe: Bishop Kadenge
In 2005 a group 0f like-minded clergy and lay people from various denominations in Zimbabwe formed Christian Alliance. It came into being because of the extraordinarily difficult social and political situation in their country. They felt the Christian community was very quiet while the ordinary people’s democratic space was shrinking by the day. Christian Alliance offered to speak on behalf of the silent majority against the social ills of the time, and Bishop Kadenge was chosen as its Convenor. In mid 2009, he resumed full ministry in the church as a lecturer at the theological college. He was invited to pioneer a subject, Religion and Current Social Issues (RCSI), to share his experiences with Christian Alliance, and the imperative for the church to engage with contemporary social issues.
This elective is an opportunity to hear some of Bishop Kadenge’s reflections on his experiences.
Bishop Levee Kadenge joined ministry in 1978, undertaking theological study in his home country of Zimbabwe as well as in South Africa and the UK. He completed his doctorate in 1998. Ministry placements have included rural congregations in Zimbabwe and a chaplain in Methodist high schools. He lectured at the United Theological College for seven years, also serving as chaplain and Vice Principal during that time.
Bishop Kadenge is widely travelled, and is involved in leadership in many organisations including the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled, Zimbabwe Advocacy office based in Geneva, and Zimbabwe Ecumenical network based in Brussels. He is the founder and Director of the Institute of Theological Reflection today.