Culture At Large

Religion, politics, and injustice in southern Africa

Andy Rau

A post by James Kirchick at the First Things blog tells the disturbing story of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, his nemesis archbishop Pius Ncube, and the alarming mix of politics, religion, personality cults, and pervasive injustice in southern Africa. It's hard not to despair at the enormous scale of the problems facing the region. Yet in the midst of all the suffering, Christians are trying to care for the oppressed and are calling for change:

In Johannesburg, one pastor and his parish stand out for selflessness: Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church (whom I interviewed in South Africa last year). At least seven hundred people, the vast majority of them Zimbabweans, sleep in Bishop Verryn’s church every night, mostly huddled on the floor in the hallways, the basement, and the stairwells. Verryn asks every man who enters his church if he has a female companion and children. “I always ask that question because I think it’s particularly important for men to keep the links and to have a place where those questions are asked, and who’s looking after the children and who’s feeding the children and are the children being educated,” he told me last year. Although his decaying church (which he admits is “like a slum”) serves as a makeshift homeless shelter, he says that the church’s regular congregants generally support him in his work and that 1,200 people attend one of the five services he holds on Sundays.

Even Verryn, however, seems to struggle with despair and bitterness over the way things are going. Living as I do in a typical mid-sized American city here in Michigan, it's hard to even imagine the situation. But I'm glad bloggers like Kirchick are bringing these issues to our attention.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, News & Politics, World