Report from parish in Zimbabwe

 (Many thanks to Father Oskar Wermter SJ who gave us permission to publish this report) On Sunday, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu came to give Confirmation to 160 members of our parish. His homily was a comfort (and a challenge) to me. He said, speaking in Shona: "Christ is not far from us. He is present in the person made homeless when his/her house or shack was destroyed. He is present in everyone shivering through these cold nights, sleeping out in the open. He is present in all who are hungry and destitute. Addressing later the parish leaders he added: "Don't think that God does not see what is going on here. When Pharaoh oppressed the people of Israel in Egypt, he heard their cry." Our archbishop speaks in a quiet tone, without much rhetoric or drama. But his words, mostly in biblical language, are clear and understood. In the meantime our Bishops have spoken a second time condemning the war on the poor waged by the regime on the poor and powerless: "Any claim to justify this operation in view of a desired orderly end becomes totally groundless in view of the cruel and inhumane means that have been used. People have a right to shelter and that has been deliberately destroyed in this operation without much warning." A widow with three children who earns her living by sewing and selling things comes with a demand from the City of Harare to pay $500,000 for changing ownership of her property from her late mother to her; unless this is done soon she may lose her home. Another one must raise $700,000 to install a new water meter and pay more than 2 million for backdated rates and especially for "penalties" unexplained what for). A woman who made a living out of selling paraffin lost all her supplies when the police raided her house. She is left destitute. She used to be even able to give some of her time to voluntary work for an AIDS charity. Now she is in need of charity herself. All these people and many more come to the priest in the hope he can somehow solve their problems. But he can't. Even if he dished out all the cash he can lay his hands on, what about next month and the one after? Almost everybody has been ruined. Industrious people who looked after themselves are now in need of handouts. This is degrading and dehumanising. A man's home, however small and miserable, is his outer shell, it is part of himself. A woman's home (housewife, homemaker) is her life. If you destroy a home, you are assaulting the owner, his/her very person. This has happened thousands of times in the last few weeks, is still happening daily, hourly. Many young families found shelter in rented cottages, now destroyed. They all have to run back to their parents and ask to be accommodated, most humiliating for young people who have just set out in life on their own. Small family houses become overcrowded with two generations; the ensuing stress and strain does great harm to married and family life. And there is talk that another campaign will soon be started "Murivangani?/How many are you? when -'superfluous' people w ill be thrown out, like rubbish on the rubbish dump. Why? Why? Why? People are asking. Why this insanity?

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