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Sunday, June 17, 2007



Zimbabwe bishop sees change ahead
Evangelical Lutheran Church leader, visiting local synod: Nation at climax of its woes.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
By Renée K. Gadoua
Staff writer
The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe heads home today after renewing a five-year agreement for a relationship with the local Evangelical Lutheran church.
The church's local synod began its companion partnership with the church in Zimbabwe in 1990. Since then, several delegations from each community have visited their partner synod. Bishop Marie Jerge, of the church's Upstate synod, was part of a local delegation that visited Zimbabwe in 2003.
The renewal of the agreement took place during the local denomination's annual meeting June 3 to 5 in Rochester, attended by Bishop Naison Shava, from Zimbabwe.
"We want to create those connections that already exist in the world but we may not be aware of," Jerge said.
The local synod includes about 80,000 people in 198 churches from Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County to the Canadian border and from the Massachusetts border to Lake Erie.
Shava said the international community needs to understand Zimbabwe's history to understand its current conditions.
The leader of Zimbabwe is President Robert Mugabe, 83, who became the country's first black leader in 1980. Since then, the southern African nation has devolved into a country with high inflation, food and fuel shortages, and accusations of human rights abuses.
Despite international criticism of Mugabe's leadership, Shava is optimistic about Zimbabwe.
Here are excerpts from an interview Tuesday with The Post-Standard.
What's happening in Zimbabwe?
We have gone through a lot of stages of political conflicts and, sometimes, some violence. We have learned through the process. We can say Zimbabweans are a peace-loving community who have learned fighting does not benefit anyone.
How's the economy?
We had a problem with the World Bank, and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) withdrew support, making it very difficult. We had a problem servicing our debt with the IMF. There is no confidence in the economy. Inflation continues to fly high.
How do economic conditions affect the people?
The level of income does not grow the same way (as inflation). If you are eating a loaf of bread a day you have to reduce to half a loaf because you cannot afford it.
Even the people who are working are considered poor. People must rely on subsidies from their relatives or friends outside the country.
How does the land redistribution following independence play into the conditions?
It has caused a straining of international relations. Eighty percent of the land in Zimbabwe is good land and is occupied by 20 percent who happen to be mainly the white community. Eighty percent of the people occupy 20 percent of the land.
This was the result of colonization. It has not been addressed since independence.
Is Mugabe to blame for these problems?
He may have had his errors. There are also areas where he has made it well for the country.
The first 10 or 15 years of his leadership, Zimbabwe's economy was growing. Then he was behaving, in the eyes of the international world, in a funny way.
He is a person who is educated. Because of his frankness, he has created more problems for himself.
What do church leaders think of him?
We are in dialogue with him. Confrontation is not an option.
Didn't Roman Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe call for Mugabe to step down?
There are individual Catholic bishops who would like to play the hero. Their criticism, demonizing Mugabe, does not help.
It would not make sense to force him out of office. It would just create anarchy.
What will Zimbabwe be like in five years?
We're at the climax of our problems. In the next two years, we should be able to see change. We don't know what the solutions are, but, as a church, we have to have hope.
Renee K. Gadoua can be reached at or 470-2203.


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