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Diaspora Challenges: when clerics lead from the front

25/05/2017 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
Together for community causes ... T Nyawanza and R Bvunzawabaya

AS Jesus went about preaching the gospel he would also perform some acts in response to both spiritual and physical challenges faced by members of communities he encountered.

He was an action person. His first miracle was at a wedding ceremony. He changed water into wine and averted what could have turned into a serious embarrassment for the organisers.

In a flash of a moment, he turned around a fishless day into a bounty when Peter and the other fishermen had almost thrown in the towel.

He healed the sick and cast out demons so that those possessed could once again live a fulfilling life. He combined spiritual emancipation with a release from the daily life challenges for those who followed and listened to him.

It was in the spirit that about thirty Zimbabwean church leaders gathered at Oxley Green Park Hall on 18th of May 2017 to fellowship, share stories of pain and grief from their respective congregations.

Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan facilitated the meeting as part of their corporate social responsibility initiative. The church leaders were from different denominations.  

Emmanuel Gotora of CitizensUK, in typical community organising style, departed from the usual way leaders are introduced. He went around the group asking each leader about what it is that keeps them awake, praying for a breakthrough for their congregants.

Pastor Chirere and Emmanuel Gotora ... Coming together for the community

The leaders passionately and emotionally poured out their spirits as they narrated how marriages were breaking down in the communities and in extreme cases spouses causing grievous bodily harm or death of a family member.

They lamented how children were being taken into care leaving families traumatised. Stories of parents being imprisoned for child abuses, husbands being reported for domestic violence, children taken into care and some resorting to criminal activities were shared.

They also shared stories of their members whose immigration cases have either been refused or have dragged on for years with no settled status in sight. Such situations of living in limbo were causing so much hopelessness, pain, family breakdowns and in some cases statelessness. People were losing their most productive years and getting deskilled whilst in limbo. 


Within an hour of sharing stories, it became clear that, though the leaders were from different denominations, they were facing the same challenges.

Emmanuel shared with the leaders how to build relational power around the familiar challenges before engaging those in power who make the rules. Through relational power church leaders could mobilise and galvanise their power basis to have a more powerful voice in fighting community causes.

Critics would be quick to ask why now. The truth is that these church leaders have already been doing a lot of pastoral work within their churches. They have been counselling their members as families have continued to struggle with changed power dynamics in the new diaspora home environment.

Women have gained more power and have become freer to express themselves. Children have become what one contributor called “why” machines. It is no longer a father’s world where everything he says goes. Power has shifted from the father who now has to negotiate and reach consensus with other family members.

The home has taken the shape of a small democratic state where one can be voted out of power. Thus, many fathers, finding it difficult to negotiate power, have literally been voted out of this democratic unit and have been kicked out of a homestead which in many instances is named after them except that they no longer have jurisdiction over it. Some men who have found change difficult returned to Zimbabwe to try and reclaim the lost glory of a “real” Zimbabwean father. 

Social scientists panel ... presenting on social issues confronting the community

At Oxley Park, the church leaders had gathered to collectively explore how to work for social justice and the common good of the community. Power respects another power. The church leaders came to build complimentary power as community leaders.

They understood that department of social services and the Home Office were manned by powerful officers. It was, thus, imperative that before they could challenge some of the rules applied against their members, the church leaders need to have a powerful association.

They also appreciated that knowledge is power. The meeting organisers invited Andrew Nyamayaro of Tann Law, Rumbi Bvunzawabaya of RBM Solicitors  and Taffy Nyamwanza of Genesis Law to make presentations about current immigration rules as they affect Zimbabweans. Amongst other issues, these experts advised that it was important to always have a pending application at the Home Office if one has not been granted stay as yet.

Legal experts ... brought together for community good

The social services panel composed of Mrs Mapimhidze, Pastor Mapimhidze and Dr Claudious Madembo. They dispersed of the ugly myth that social services just take away children from our families and, in some instances, have got some parents imprisoned. They impressed on the importance of accepting that we are in a different country with rules which are at variance with our Zimbabwean culture. Thus, if Zimbabweans want to live peacefully in their new adopted countries then there is need to observe host countries’ rules just as the saying goes, when in Rome do what the Romans do. 

Zimbabweans` parenting problems were traceable to their upbringing. Some parents grew up in abusive set-ups where any mistake was followed by ruthless punishment. As such, the parents cannot think of any other way of correcting a child apart from using the stick.

This attitude is causing most of the confrontation with professionals who, though willing to work with the parents, are at times left with no option but to remove the children from their family home.

The social workers indicated that they are always looking for ways to keep the children in the community. However, some parents are said to be so militant and un-cooperative that social workers find them unsuitable to care for the children. Thus, they remove the children and look for a better place for protection and an environment conducive to their development.

The panel advised that once the Social Services gets involved parents should be co-operative and show remorse and willingness to engage and reform rather than exhibit confrontational attitude.

The church leaders will now move on to engage power holders. They will seek an opportunity to negotiate changes to the way congregants are currently being treated by different offices at local and national government levels.

Church leaders came from the Methodist, Anglican, Forward In Faith, AFM International, On The Rock Church, Overcomers Church, Provebs 31, Deeper Faith International Church, New Life Covenant Church, and The United Apostolic Faith Mission amongst others.

Speaking for the organisers, Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan’s Jeff Madzingo said their hope was that the Zimbabwean diaspora community, at individual and corporate levels, can pull together and leverage the skills and resources that we are bestowed with as a people to create common solutions for our common good.

Madzingo called upon different professionals and community leaders to feel challenged by the problems that we all face as a community for our individual prosperities can only be sweeter if anchored by the happiness and wellbeing of the wider community.

More pictures from the workshop:


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