A MESSAGE FROM PIUS          - 31/12/2006      <--Prev : Next-->

The Times
December 23, 2006
Homeless but not hopeless in Africa - Pius Ncube: Credo

Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, when we relive the mystery of God come among us as Man gives us as much cause to reflect on the nature of humanity as on the nature of the Godhead.
Paramount to the story of the Nativity is that God took on our human nature; that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. This truth brings back to us with great force the dignity of human beings. A dignity that cries out to us from the depths of suffering, oppression and pain. When God became Man in Palestine He made Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one.

The Christmas story is not a comfortable one. In Bulawayo and the surrounding region of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe the lives of the children, the women and the men I am called to serve are not comfortable either. So often people spend two days before their next meal. For many this Christmas will not only be one without presents, but one without food as well.
For them the story of Our Lord's birth, life and death has too many resonances and echoes. Hearing of their Saviour born in Bethlehem in a stable because there was no room at the inn, many of them will remember the homelessness they and their little ones suffered when the cruel Mugabe regime that oppresses our people tore down their homes last year.
Through Operation Murambatsvina or 'Clear Out Rubbish', hundreds of thousands were made homeless by a government that cares more about preserving its own power than looking after its people; it was a callous affront to human dignity.

The Lord Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a simple manger; He was not born among the rich or the powerful. I long for our political leaders in their mansions and Mercedes-Benz to hear the call to serve their people, for them to hold out their hands across boundaries to protect the weak, the lowly and the oppressed.
Our Government, like King Herod, hunts down those who present a threat to its lust for power and privilege. Just as the Holy Innocents, all the baby boys in Judaea, were slaughtered to protect Herod's place on the throne, so in Zimbabwe food supplies are manipulated and whole districts deprived of food for not showing political loyalty to a dictatorial regime.
The Holy Family was forced to flee into exile and find safety in Egypt, and millions of Zimbabweans have fled the terror, hunger and desperation of our land to live in exile. We ask for kindness and patience in those countries where Zimbabweans seek refuge and try to lead normal lives.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus we know that the story moves forward to His death at the age of 33. For most of the world that is regarded as young and Our Lord's life as a short one. Not in Zimbabwe any more; in the past couple of decades our average life expectancy has been halved to stand only in the mid-30s. An average of 500 people die of Aids every day. We have 1.3 million orphans and many child-headed families. Often a girl of 15, who has lost both parents, has to look after three or four younger siblings. Disease, malnutrition and economic mismanagement leading to lack of medicines and clinic facilities are cutting swaths through our population. Yet still for mile after mile along the dusty roads of Zimbabwe you will see the families of the faithful, walking through the night to be at church on Christmas Day ready to celebrate the birth of their Saviour.

Poor, sick, orphaned, ill-dressed and unshod these, the very humblest in human terms, are the treasures of the Church. As they walk beneath the clear starlit African night joining with Christians around the world to hear again the Christmas story they will be reminded of the message of the angels in the skies above Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. For such expressions we give thanks. We thank also all those who have supported us in different ways in countries across the world. When we sing of a midnight clear and glorious, a song of old, let us give thanks and reflect, making a special prayer for all those who suffer oppression, not only in Zimbabwe but for the many troubled spots across the world: Iraq, the Middle East, the Darfur region and the tsunami victims, to name a few.
May we listen to the message of the angels:
Peace on the Earth, good will to men,
from Heaven's all gracious King.
Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife,
and hear the angels sing!
Pius Ncube is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe