On 20th January, 2009, I turned on my radio to listen to the news and heard these words from the leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe: "Today is probably one of the darkest days of our lives." These words came after the end of a marathon 12 hour meeting with Mugabe mediated by former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, current President of South Africa, K. Motlante, and President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza. The talks, aimed at restoring an earlier agreement on equal power sharing failed and no agreement was reached. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. Hopes dashed once again! It is hard to sustain hope, and political conversations among citizens have more 'silence' than words. Words are hard to come by; what more can be said that has not already been said? Where can one find hope?
In the evening of 20th January, 2009, I, like millions of people in this region including Zimbabwe, watched the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. The excitement and sense of history gripped many of us. Commentators on TV and responses from members of the public revealed the extent to which many felt inspired, challenged, and energized by Obama's speech. Our context may be different from that of the U.S., but our common humanity united us in celebrating the victory of democracy, human dignity, equality, and all the ideals that bring out the best in humanity and remind us once again that together we can transcend the past and build a better future. Many of us needed to hear this and receive inspiration to keep on keeping on until the ideals that reflect the right to dignity, equality, and freedom become a reality for us all. With millions all over the world who watched the inauguration, we were for that moment united by ideals that are basic to our common humanity.
How does one reconcile the message of hope with the harsh realities of life without sight of either? I think this proverb from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria sheds some light:
Ag?? nwere nchekwube/ol?leanya a d?gh? egbu egbu.(Igbo)
The hunger that has hope for its satisfaction does not kill.
The church both in and out of Zim has not been silent during this time. In South Africa Bishop Tutu made a call for prayer and fasting in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. A movement was launched led by wife of Nelson Mandela, Gracia Machel called "save zimbabwe now' several members of the clergy in South Africa are involved and want to make sure that the prophetic voice of the church is not silent. Hope flickers on!
Nontando Hadebe, a former Sojourners intern, is originally from Zimbabwe and is now pursuing graduate studies in theology in South Africa.