'Grace to Heal': Deconstructing the Culture of Violence in Zimbabwe
The government of Zimbabwe, in a groundbreaking move, dedicated this past weekend to renouncing political violence and promoting national healing. It is a time for all Zimbabweans at home and abroad to "renounce and report all forms of political violence, in an effort to restore peace and stability in the country."
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Given past denials of violence, this move has opened up a space for confronting the reality of violence in post-independent Zimbabwe. Taking a leaf from the South African Truth and Reconciliation process, there seems to be a realization that the nation can only move forward when the truth of violence is dealt with. The challenge that emerges is a way forward, finding mechanisms to heal, restore, and reverse a political culture of violence. The church and many other community based organizations have for some time been addressing these issues, and one Christian organization that has gone especially far is "Grace to Heal," a ministry initiated and run by a Baptist church in Bulawayo. This is the story of one of the founders:
My name is Dumisani Ngwenya and I live in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the second capital. I am married and have two children, a boy and a girl. I was born on 3rd December 1966. I have a master's in conflict resolution and am currently at the preliminary stages of my doctoral studies in the same area; my first degree is in theology.
I have been privileged to have worked in various Christian organizations. In whatever role I have worked, my desire has always been to see people's lives transformed through the touch of God's love and mercy.
My first job was with Scripture Union, a non-denominational organization working in schools. As a high school worker, I was blessed to see God touch and transform the lives of the young people. What I treasure most is the fact that most of those young people I discipled are now leaders in various areas of life.
Currently the calling of my life has shifted to peacebuilding. In 2003 my pastor and I felt that God was calling us to establish a ministry called Grace To Heal that would bring healing and meaning to ordinary people at grassroots level. Since we live in Matabeleland, a region that was badly affected by the massacre of over 20,000 Matebele people between 1982-1987, we began by ministering to the victims and survivors of Gukurahundi (the rain that washes away the chaff), as the operation was called. Our vision is to help create trauma free and tolerant communities, who are skilled in nonviolent conflict resolution. We want to deconstruct the culture of violence and create one of peace and harmony in as far as it is humanly possible.
As director and co-founder of this ministry, I have been privileged to see this little ministry blossom from just me as full-time staff to a complement of four currently. The road has not been rosy and there were times when I had to go with no salary, but we are beginning to see the fruits of that labor of love. The Bible says "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God," and that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
The programs we offer have grown with time from just trauma processing to include conflict resolution, reconciliation and forgiveness, nonviolent social transformation, etc. -- in brief, everything that has to do with peacebuilding.
It is both a pain and a pleasure to see people shedding their pain through this ministry. It's a pain because their stories are so traumatic and unbelievable. It's difficult to stomach the fact that we as God's creation have potential for such evil. The bloody campaign for the presidential rerun last year in June left many communities torn by the violence. Families, friends, and neighbors were not talking to each other. In fact, it was so bad that families stopped supporting each other during funerals, and at beer drinks Zanu-PF and MDC supporters drank separately for fear of being poisoned. Since the time we have been mediating in that community, most of the relationships have been restored; those left to be healed, the community leaders felt they could handle on their own. Such stories always give us hope to do what we do, even though at times it's difficult to see whether we are making a difference or not. The environment we work in is not always conducive, but so far God has been good to us and I believe that, in as far as security is concerned, the worst is over for us. We can work without having to keep looking over our shoulders to see who is watching.
I hope you have been encouraged by this testimony and vision. To engage more with Dumisani and what he is doing, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.