25th-31st October 2021
Social justice has always been part of the Christian teaching in general and the Methodist teaching in particular. The Methodist teaching is not only interested in welfare but is also concerned with dealing with social injustice. John Wesley in his last letter advocated for the abolition of Slavery which was rampant during his time. The term justice began in the Judean writings and kept on being utilised in Christian teachings. In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 10: 18-19) justice is requested from everybody and in the New Testament, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) vividly explains the concept of justice in the Christian thought.
Therefore as the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe we are called upon to reflect on the word of God and see how we can play our part in advocating for eradication of social injustice in our society today. May God open our hearts and minds throughout this week as we reflect on this important biblical concept of social justice.
Rev W Dimingu
Acting Mission Director
Day 1: CHURCH AS A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS
READINGS: 2 SAMUEL 13: 1-25
Tamar is raped by her half brother, but everything is downplayed.
A syndicate of man connived to rape a princess. Amnon and Tamar could have been allowed to many but her father chose to let her face shame.
From the reading (Amon, Jonadab, king David, his brother Shimeah (Jonadab’s father) and Absalom unite in a massive cover-up. There could be some reasons for covering.
Most likely thinking of what people would say. Abantu bazothini/vanhu vachati kudini? This caught them up.
Tamar pleaded with her brother, but he didn’t listen. Even after the rape, she tore her garments and smeared ashes as a sign that she has been defiled, but no one listened to her screams, This indicates how victims of circumstances suffer. One then wonders, if people speak out, are we ready to listen as a church? How many voices are screaming in our churches? Have we listened? Is the church deaf?
The Church’s mission is that of the kingdom of God, which scripture describes as a situation where peace and righteousness will reign supremely. The worship of God is to be lived and transform communities; the Church must confront and discourage sexual and all forms of abuse.
There is a great increase in cases of sexual abuse and harassment. Women, young girls and boys suffer in silence. In rare cases when they manage to speak out, they are silenced! And Justice is not obtained.
The Church has been accused at times to have either made this a private issue or downplayed issues of abuse within the church. What is your comment on the accusation?
How can the church assist victims of abuse to speak out?
Day 2 and 3: HUMAN TRAFFICKING: THIS SHOULD STOP!
Among several forms of human rights abuse the world over, human trafficking is one such abuse of concern affecting both developing and developed.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is defined as, the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. It also includes provision the provision of spouse in the case of forced or child marriages. In this regard, it is the illegal movement of persons from one area to another with the main outcome being abuse. exploitation or any other inhuman and degrading act orchestrated by perpetrators. In Zimbabwe, cases of forced and child marriages are on the rise due to varied socio-religious factors.
There are varied definitions of human trafficking, characterised by three main commonalities; the intent or purpose to exploit, the illegal activities conducted and the method by which it is undertaken. The intent to exploit suggests that human trafficking is planned rather than incidental and is not meant to be mutually beneficial. The notion of criminality or illegal activities conducted points to the subversion of the victims’ rights and violation of national as well as international rights protection instruments. The method used by perpetrators is a key part as it underpins how victims are integrated into the system of trafficking. The intent can be viewed as the output, while the illegal activities refer to the process involved and the methods focus on how victims are turned into inputs within the system of trafficking.
People smuggling (also called human smuggling and migrant smuggling) is a related practice which is characterised by the consent of the person being smuggled. This practice can descend into human trafficking through coercion and exploitation. Smuggled people may end up being held against their will through acts or coercion once they are outside familiar boundaries, and forced to work for or provide services to the trafficker or others.
Humans can be trafficked within the same country, or across borders and to other continents. The case of Zimbabwean women in Kuwait is an example of trans-national human trafficking.
It is indeed a crime against the person because of the violation of the victim’s rights of movement through coercion and because of their commercial exploitation. Women and children, including other vulnerable adults are the most affected.
Human trafficking is the third largest crime industry in the world, behind drug dealing and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing activity of trans-national criminal organisations. Like other trans-national crimes against humanity, it is supported and organized by complex and powerful cartels.
Human Trafficking in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a source, transit and destination for human trafficking; this means victims of trafficking can originate in Zimbabwe, are transported through Zimbabwe or destined for Zimbabwe from other parts of the world. There are incidents of trafficked foreign nationals who are intercepted in Zimbabwe enroute to South Africa and other parts of the world. These are transported through haulage trucks. Another incident involves Ethiopian, and Congolese nationals who were intercepted in recent years, some of whom are kept at Tongogara refugee camp in Chipinge awaiting repatriation to their places of origin. Cross-border transporters, popularly known as omalaitsha are known for transporting victims of trafficking in and out of Zimbabwe.
Traffickers lure Zimbabwean men and women into exploitative labour situations in agriculture, construction, information technology and hospitality largely in neighbouring countries, some subsequently become victims of forced labour and women become victims of sexual exploitation. Locally young girls are recruited from the rural areas and high-density residential areas on the pretext that they will get menial jobs in town only to find themselves being sexually exploited by the so called “sisters” who run brothels in urban centres. Others are trapped in domestic servitude even in homes of Christians. The victims are in most cases underpaid, overworked, underfed, restricted from interacting with peers and subjected to other oppressive practices.
Push and pull factors in human trafficking
There is a plethora of factors that precipitate people’s vulnerability to human trafficking in Zimbabwe and beyond its borders. These factors propel or entice individuals/victims to succumb to human trafficking, not by design but by default. These factors include poverty. unemployment and lack of income generating opportunities, poor health opportunities, the HIV and AIDS pandemic (which has seriously eroded the social fabric of society leaving orphaned children exposed to exploitation), natural and man-made disasters, political instability, absence of deterrent legislations and poor institutional systems.
Circumstances force people to be so desperate such that they risk associating with strangers as they attempt to earn a living. The number of advertisements for domestic workers, hotel and agriculture employment flighted on the social media bears testimony to unemployment has become of the major push and pull factors of human trafficking. Victims are easily lured. Many people have fallen prey to these traps. It is imperative to us as a church to raise awareness in trying to curb if not put a stop to this evil act.
How can we identify victims of human trafficking in our communities?
There are several pointers or indicators for suspected trafficking in persons. These are:
>Living with employer
>Poor living conditions
>Multiple people in cramped space
>Inability to speak to individuals alone
>Answers to questions appear to be scripted and rehearsed
>Employer holding identity documents
>Signs of physical abuse
>Submissive and fearful
>Unpaid or paid very little
How can we as Christians respond to trafficking in persons?
The church has an important tole to play in human trafficking. Firstly, this crime takes place in communities in which church members live, and often are accomplices when they alert victims to dubious adverts or encourage victims to take certain risks in life.
~Christians can prevent human trafficking by alerting law enforcement agents of their suspicions on certain undesirable activities taking place in their community, by conscientising women, young girls and vulnerable children of the rampant practice of human trafficking.
~Christians can provide counselling services to survivors/victims of trafficking
~The church could take a proactive approach to improve livelihoods of vulnerable members of society through building the capacities through income generating activities, inculcating resilience and empowering them through life skills.
~Providing shelter for survivors
* In light of your knowledge of human trafficking, read and discuss about the meaning of the following biblical texts: Exodus 21: 16 Death is the punishment for kidnapping. If you sell the person you kidnapped, or if you are caught with that person, the penalty is death. (CEV) and Psalm 82: 3 Be fair to the poor and to orphans. Defend the helpless and everyone in need. (CEV).
* List what you are going to do as individuals, families, groups and church to curb the growing phenomenon of human trafficking.
Day 4: CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE: PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING THE NEED TO PROMOTE SOCIAL JUSTICE AS REVEALED BY SCRIPTURE
There are eight principles underlying human rights and gender equality instruments which are:
Participation at all levels
Some congregants argue that the concept of human rights is secular and even counter Biblical. And yet. the very first creation story in Genesis affirms that all human beings are made in the image of God and have a basic dignity that is God-given. This certainly agrees with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But a number of churches worldwide have engaged with these instruments over many years. They want to understand to what extent it is the church’s responsibility to adopt them in their own ministries, and whether it is their responsibility to work actively to promote them in society.
This means that God calls the Church “to stand for the rights of human beings and for a better community because the Church is there to serve the needs of the world and not to just preach salvation. The Church has to work with whatever tools that are available in the world, and to understand those issues that prevent some people from being able to receive Jesus’ promise of abundant life.
The other side of human rights is human responsibilities, that is to ensure that no one’s human rights are violated by our actions. and states have a responsibility to safeguard the human rights of all their citizens. Of course, this is not always the case, and human rights activists and some religious leaders have spoken out against state, institutional and individuals’ actions that undermine people’s human rights.
Genesis 1: 26-28 “And God created humankind in God’s own image; in the Image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.” Humanity was created in the image of God, and both males and females were given the responsibility to care for the earth. This passage not give greater importance or status to either men or women. Add your own examples of Biblical texts and discuss.
Ephesians 5:21 — “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Galatians 3:26-28 — “…for in Jesus Christ you are ALL children of God through faith, .. There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Add your own examples and discuss.
Galatians 3: “You foolish Galatians! Did you receive the Spirit by doing works of the LAW or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” Paul is scolding the church in Galatia for reducing religion to a set of rules, which in the end bind people and take away their freedom to worship in spirit. Add your own examples from the Bible and discuss.
As above. Deuteronomy 10: 17-19 — “For the Lord your God .. is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and widow, and who loves strangers. providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Matthew 15: 21-28 -Jesus is involved in a debate with a non-Jewish woman about whether Jesus’ ministry is for Jews only. He at first refuses to help her, in a way discriminating against her. But Jesus is convinced by her arguments and does as she asks. The fact that he has a theological debate with a woman or speaks in public with a woman at all (in a society where a man was seen to degrade himself if he did that) shows that he was not afraid to break social norms if they undermined someone’s dignity. Add your own examples and discuss.
The daughters of Zelophe had advocated for daughters to inherit in the absence of sons. God’s response to Moses is: “The daughters of Zelophe are right…,; you shall indeed… pass the inheritance of their father to them. You shall also say to the Israelites: If a man dies and has no sons, then you shall pass his inheritance onto his daughter.” John8: 3-11 — The woman caught in adultery. Jesus deliberately challenges the justice of the traditional way of meting out justice to adulterous women. Add your own examples and discuss.
Acts 18:18 and 26
Priscilla was an active leader in the early church. John 6: 10 — “Make the people sit down. .. about five thousand in all” Add your own examples and discuss.
John 20v17 — Mary is the first evangelist sent to spread the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. “Jesus said to Mary: Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: ‘l am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Add your own examples and discuss.
Genesis 1: 28 — “God blessed them and said to them [both]: .. fill the earth and subdue it…”
Using the above principles can we identify our areas of strength and weakness as we strive for social justice.
Day 5: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: AN ELEPHANT IN THE CHRISTENDOM CIRCLE
Judges 19: 1-30
The story of the unnamed woman in Judges 19–20 is one of the most disturbing texts in the Hebrew Bible. The woman, who is from Bethlehem but lives with a Levite in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Jerusalem, is referred to in Hebrew as the concubine of the Levite. The term is usually understood to refer to a wife or sexual partner of secondary status. Although certain men in the Hebrew Bible had both wives and concubines, no wives or additional concubines are referred to in Judges 19. The concubine and the husband seem to have had a conflict leading to her returning home. She is followed by the husband who manages to convince her and her father to return to the Hill Country with the man. She goes but on the way is met with her fate of death and her body is chopped into pieces.
How can we as a Church intervene in matters of domestic violence when issues are brought out in the open?
Our role as a church is to create a safe environment for everyone and to seek the protection of the vulnerable, children as well as the youths. How do you think we can achieve this in light of the increase in domestic violence cases?
How do you think families should handle cases of domestic violence happening to any of our family members?
Day 6: SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE CHURCH WITH REGARD TO ABORTION
EXODUS 21:22-25; JEREMIAH 1:5
The current political and social climate has revealed issues within our society and the church. Some are questioning the church for not taking a visible stand against perceived social injustices and others are condemning the church for not being clear on incompatible social norms to Christian living.
There are a number of social injustices declared in each community but today we are going to look at abortion as one of the primary injustices within our society. Abortion is one of the primary social injustices in a society of which the church is being blamed for lack of compassion or being too worldly. Abortion can be defined as a procedure to end a pregnancy. The pregnancy is ended either by taking medicines or having a surgical procedure.
So, today our major question is, ‘Where should the invisible true body of Christ stand and declare in regard to this social issue? We see and hear ministers openly supporting some of these social issues such as the Gay Rights issue, while at the same time others condemn these issues openly.
This has brought about confusion to the world. To know correctly where the church (body of Christ) should stand, we must set aside human feeling and emotion and look toward God from whom our help comes.
In order for us to understand this issue further, we need to look at how God has valued human life and when it is declared life. The explicit verse is Jeremiah 1:5, where God explicitly states: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’.
Here, we see the value of a person before birth hence, before birth we hear the life of someone being declared. Thus, pre-born people are known beings with a purpose. Also Exodus 21:22-25, we see killing a unborn baby being regarded as murder.
The church needs to reach out to those who are confused on the matter in a loving and kind manner.
What do you think is the true social justice in relation to abortion for the church?
What principles should the church engage in order to SAVE LIVES and PROTECT themselves such as the unborn person?
Day 7: GOD OF LOVE, JUSTICE AND PEACE
John 10:10, Luke 10:25-28
The God that we have come to know in Jesus Christ is a God of Love, justice and peace. God made us ambassadors of these core values. The task of every Christian is to manifest God’s presence and to be actively involved in all spheres of life. “I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Economics and Politics are important activities which also affect people’s lives and can therefore not be left to those in authority alone. By the nature of the gospel we are mandated to address all the issues that hinder the fulfilment of our hopes as proclaimed by God through Jesus Christ.
God wants us to be free and happy. This is part of the implication of Christ’s good news of salvation. God created human beings not for them to suffer, but to have life and have it abundantly. God’s approach to life is holistic and as His servants we have no option but to be holistic in our proclamation of the Gospel. Christians as members of the body of Christ, have a moral duty to contribute to the creation of social, economic, political and cultural institutions, systems, structures processes and personalities that facilitate the integral growth and fulfilment of every human person. Christians are called to serve God and humanity through the preaching of a liberative Gospel and service to alleviate human suffering in this world.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-28) Jesus made the point that we should extend our Christian love to all people, regardless of race, religion, nationality or any other artificial distinction. We must practice that love even towards our enemies. As Christians we all belong to one human family and as such, we have mutual obligations to promote the rights and development of all people across communities. To be in solidarity with others is to recognize that all other humans have the same humanity as us. It is to be moved by other people’s suffering and to be uplifted by their happiness.