The Common Good

Things Fall Apart: Prayer Requests for South Africa and Zimbabwe

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

- William Butler Yeats, from his poem, "The Second Coming"

When I listen to stories of victims of the xenophobic violence in South Africa and compare those with the stories of victims of electoral cleansing in Zimbabwe, things fall apart because the experiences of violence are similar. How can this be? How can the experience of violence in a democracy be the same as that in a dictatorship? For the victims of violence -- most of whom are the poorest of the poor -- their experience blurs the distinction between a democracy and a dictatorship. Similarly, for the perpetrators of violence, democracy has not changed their material condition and has no real value. Are they the only role-players in this violence? What about our leaders and institutions dealing with welfare, immigration, housing, etc.? What about regional leaders' responsibility to challenge dictatorship? The violence is a collective shame that requires collective responsibility.

The violence is spreading like wildfire and is unstoppable. The headline in all the newspapers is "flames of hatred," with pictures of the latest act of brutality -- namely, pouring petrol on victims and setting them alight. The spirit of hatred and violence has taken root and it is unlikely that the violence will stop. Listening to talk shows on the radio, it is alarming to hear some of the hate speech. A friend phoned me last night and she was terrified because she narrowly missed being attacked. She lives in the centre of Johannesburg and locals told residents in the block of flats where she lives that they will be returning with enough petrol to set the building on fire and burn them all. The police have lost control. It feels surreal, and as I lie in bed -- safe for the moment -- I challenge myself to make my temporal safety an opportunity to do something. I am not sure what at the moment, but I am sure that I can find something to do -- join those trying to do something. I know that the starting place is prayer, because that is the only hate-free zone!

We need prayers for South Africa. Please include these requests in your prayers:

  • actions to bring an end to the violence, as it is now spreading to other parts of the country
  • visionary leaders who will "make concrete" the values and benefits of democracy for the poor
  • healing and restoration of victims of violence
  • justice and rehabilitation of perpetrators of violence
  • new spirit and revival of African humaneness of "ubuntu"
  • churches and individuals who have responded to the plight of the victims of violence to continue and find the resources they need.

In Zimbabwe, the date of the presidential election has been set for June 27, 2008. The violence is continuing and spreading across the country. There have been calls for the establishment of a government comprising both the opposition and "ruling party" so that the political situation can be stabilised first before an election. I doubt whether the "ruling party" will accept this -- they will insist on elections. In this context, prayers are needed -- please include the following requests in your prayers:

  • for regional leaders to have the wisdom and courage to come up with alternative strategies toward resolving the deteriorating situation
  • for victims of violence and their families
  • for military leaders behind the violence
  • for the leadership of the opposition -- for courage, vision, and perseverance that will strengthen the resolve of their supporters who face violence and torture
  • for the biggest miracle of all -- the birth of a new democratic Zimbabwe!

Thank you all for your support and I hope that one day when things turn around for the best, we can pray for you too!


Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.

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